Texas Gov. Rick Perry activated 1,000 National Guard troops and will deploy them to the Rio Grande Valley. There they will join the state’s Department of Public Safety in an effort to combat human smuggling across the country’s southern border.
“I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault, and little children from Central America are detained in squalor. We are too good a country for that to occur,” Perry said during his announcement of Operation Strong Safety.
“The National Guard troops that I am deploying will support the state-led border surge by acting as a force multiplier on the ground and providing additional air assets beyond their current efforts,” the Texas governor said. “These additional resources will help combat the brutal Mexican drug cartels that are preying upon our communities, and also will help deter others before they have a chance to harm our citizens and become criminal aliens within our borders.”
Over 57,000 children from Central America have entered the country illegally so far this year. Perry noted, however, that those children make up only 20 percent of the border apprehensions. Those apprehensions have dropped 36 percent over the last week or two, he added.
Democratic State Sen. Juan 'Chuy' Hinojosa opposes the deployment of troops. "My position is that we do not need to militarize the border," Hinojosa told the Houston Chronicle, adding that the area has requested help for additional law enforcement and also resources to feed, clothe and provide health checkups for the large influx of juvenile migrants.
"The National Guard are not needed here… They have a different mission. They have a military mission," the state senator said.
State officials stressed that the Guard members and DPS troopers do not amount to a militarization of the border by Texas. “The DPS and the National Guard are working to keep any drug and human trafficking south of [US Highway] 83 and with the goal of keeping any smuggling from entering major highways to transport East/West/and North,” a leaked memo from a state official’s office said, according to the McAllen Monitor.
The governor explained the reasoning behind the activation at a Republican barbecue in Iowa on Sunday. “If the federal government does not do its constitutional duty to secure the Southern border of the United States, the state of Texas will do it,” Perry said, according to the Washington Post.
The troops would gradually enter the area, taking a month to build to the entire 1,000, and would cost about $12 million per month, The Monitor reported. They will join the DPS troopers already at the border, who are costing Texas $1.3 million per week.
The governor, as well as the lieutenant governor, believe the federal government will eventually pay the state back for the money spent during the National Guard activation. “At some point in time, the federal gov’t will respect its constitutional requirement to secure the border and reimburse the state of Texas for the dollars that we are expending now,” Perry said.
Perry recently told Fox News Sunday that the use of the state’s troops is important “because this flood of children is pulling away the border patrol from their normal duties of keeping bad people, keeping the drug cartels, they’re being distracted, so that I would suggest is a very obvious reason that those National Guard troops should come play an important role.”
The governor’s plan has received mixed reactions throughout Texas.
"The children fleeing violence in Central America are seeking out Border Patrol agents. They are not trying to evade them. Why would Rick Perry send soldiers to confront these kids?" Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said to the Chronicle.
"Our state officials haven't taken care of business to protect the people of Texas," Grassroots America Executive Director JoAnn Fleming said at a news conference in Austin last week. "This is an issue of safety and security. It's not an issue of race."
"Governor Perry needs to stop asking Washington to come save us," Fleming said.
The Texas leader had asked President Barack Obama to deploy the National Guard troops to the border when the commander-in-chief visited the state in mid-July. Obama said he would consider the request, but that it was not a permanent answer to the crisis, according to the Statesman. The Obama administration has asked Congress to approve an additional $3.7 billion in funds for border control and child health services to adequately address the flood of illegal child migrants.