Texas Gov. Rick Perry is set to activate 1,000 National Guard troops and 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.
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democrat from the Rio Grande Valley town of McAllen that has been hit hard by the flood of illegal immigrants crossing the border, confirmed the activation to the Houston Chronicle on Sunday night. Over 57,000 children from Central America have entered the country illegally so far this year.
“The senator understands that Perry wants this troop build-up but is not sure what kind of federal approval he needs for it. He just knows he wants to deploy 1,000 troops there,” Hinojosa spokeswoman Jennifer Saenz said to the Chronicle.
Hinojosa opposes the deployment of troops. “My position is that we do not need to militarize the border,” Hinojosa told the Houston paper, 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.
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 controland child health services to adequately address the flood of illegal child migrants.
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