Texas National Guard troops have started staking out positions along the state’s border with Mexico, as Governor Rick Perry aims to stem the flow of illegal immigrants into the United States.
“Several dozen” troopers were deployed in the Rio Grande Valley on Thursday, and multiple officers were seen at observation towers in the area, according to the Associated Press. Under Perry’s orders, up to 1,000 troops total may be deployed along the border between Texas and Mexico, although the current deployment is not yet part of the governor’s Operation Strong Safety.
The deployment is expected to cost around $12 million a month, though how many troops are actually sent, as well as the duration of their stay, is unclear. Currently, funding is scheduled to expire in September.
“Your mission is clear – to be a visible presence to deter criminal activity – and contribute additional eyes and ears to assist law enforcement and Border Patrol agents along the border,” Reuters quoted Perry telling National Guard troops on Wednesday.
Perry has argued the forces are necessary in order to strengthen the border, especially since Congress has been unable to agree on a plan to address the situation. As RT reported in June, the Republican governor also said that US Customs and Border Patrol is preoccupied with handling the tens of thousands of undocumented children that have entered the United States, further necessitating action by the state.
“Texas can't afford to wait for Washington to act on this crisis, and we will not sit idly by while the safety and security of our citizens are threatened,” he said.
“Until the federal government recognizes the danger it’s putting our citizens in by its inaction to secure the border, Texas law enforcement must do everything they can to keep our citizens and communities safe.”
Since October 2013, roughly 63,000 minors have crossed into the US illegally, sparking a controversial debate over how to deal with the influx. Anti-immigrant advocates have pushed for deportations, while sympathizers have argued the situation constitutes a humanitarian crisis. President Barack Obama is also considering executive action related to immigration in the absence of movement on Capitol Hill.
Critics of Perry’s plan have also noted that National Guard troops will not be authorized to arrest illegal immigrants, causing them to wonder just what kind of role they will play.
“They're just there for support,” said Texas National Guard Master Sgt. Ken Walker to the AP, referring to the recent arrivals. “We're just trying to give some relief to the guys at Customs and Border Protection” and other law enforcement agencies.