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Border securityEffectiveness of Texas National Guard border troop surge questioned

Published 24 July 2014

Texas governor Rick Perry’s plan to send nearly 1,000 Texas National Guardtroops to the Rio Grande Valley has been applauded by the governor’s supporters, but critics question its effectiveness. Gov. Perry’s decision to send nearly 1,000 guardsmen to the Rio Grande Valley is described as “symbolic,” and top officials in border counties agree that sending more guardsmen to the border would bring little change to the current situation.

Texas governor Rick Perry’s plan to send nearly 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley has been applauded by the governor’s supporters, but critics question its effectiveness. Perry announced the plan on Monday, noting that guardsmen will support Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers sent to the border last month to fight violence and crime initiated by drug cartels, while Border Patrol officers attempt to deal with the influx of unaccompanied minors from Central America. “Operation Strong Safety” is aimed at Mexican drug cartels “trying to exploit this tragedy for their own criminal opportunities,” Perry said. Starr County Judge Eloy Vera disapproves the effort. “Those DPS people that are down here,” Vera said. “There’s one every mile, or every half a mile. And then every once in a while you’ll see a cluster or three or four of them chatting. They are doing absolutely nothing.”

DPS chief Steve McCraw reports that roughly 8,500 illegal immigrants were booked in Texas jails between April and June for a variety of crimes. The guardsmen, who will deploy gradually throughout August, will not actively arrest suspected criminals or patrol the border, instead they will act as “force multipliers” by providing tactical support from the ground and air.

Governing reports that some Texas officials want the federal government to reimburse the state for the $12 million a month national guard deployment, in addition to the roughly $5 million a month DPS surge. State Attorney General Greg Abbott has threatened to sue the federal government over the border crisis, but in the meantime, Texas House Speaker Joe Straus is committed to finding a way for the Texas legislature to pay for the deployments. “As the costs associated with securing the border continue to escalate, the House will consider all options to address the governor’s emergency declaration,” he said.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest has called Perry’s deployment plan a “symbolic” action of limited use and urges Congress to approve President Barack Obama’s $3.7 billion proposal for immediate border aid and comprehensive immigration reform.

Several top officials in border counties also agree that sending more guardsmen to the border would bring little change to the current situation. Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said he has not noticed a crime increase in recent months and National Guard troops lack the authority to arrest and question illegal immigrants. “I really don’t know what they’re going to do,” Lucio said. “The National Guard is trained in warfare. They’re not trained in law enforcement. This is not a war. This is people asking for help.”

Texas Adjutant General John Nichols has said that guardsmen do have the power to detain, but they will refrain from doing so.

The federal government has in the past, sent the National Guard to the southern border. President George W. Bush sent 6,000 guardsmen to the southern border in 2006 and Obama extended that commitment and sent about 1,200 troops in 2010.