AUSTIN, Texas — The deployment of National Guard troops that Texas Governor Rick Perry ordered in response to the border crisis is set to be phased out under a recommendation from the Texas Legislative Budget Board released on Monday. The move comes after media interest in the issue has died down after peaking this summer, when tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors, mostly from Central America, were illegally crossing the border.
The LBB is a permanent joint legislative committee comprised of the Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the House, and four members each from the Texas House and Senate. Current membership is Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, Speaker of the House Joe Straus, Senators Kevin Eltife, Craig Estes, Juan Hinojosa, and Jane Nelson, and Representatives Drew Darby, John Otto, Sylvester Turner, and John Zerwas.
As Breitbart Texas previously reported, Dewhurst announced at a press conference last month that he had joined with Perry and Straus to send a proposal to the LBB to recommend that they approve more than $86 million in funding to sustain border operations through the end of the fiscal year, which ends in August 2015. The vote was necessary to ensure continuous funding for the border security operations, which would have otherwise expired this month and could not have been resumed until after the new Legislature was sworn into office in January and could take official action. Part of the proposal to the LBB included phasing out about 1,000 Texas National Guard troops from the border in the Spring, to be replaced with Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers. The LBB, which, as mentioned above, currently includes both Dewhurst and Straus as members, accepted this recommendation in a unanimous vote.
The $86 million approved by the LBB will fund border security activities through August 2015, and according to Straus’ office, will primarily go to additional overtime for DPS officers. DPS estimates that this funding will be the equivalent of adding 640 more DPS personnel to the border. The funding will also continue the involvement of Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens in border security efforts through August, but only provides for the deployment of Texas National Guard troops, at a reduced level, through March 2015.
Dewhurst and Straus both issued statements announcing the vote and praising the other eight members of the LBB who voted with them. “The primary responsibility of government is to protect the life and liberty of its people and this unanimous, bipartisan vote to sustain and expand the Texas border security surge is the fulfillment of that,” said Dewhurst. “This action will ensure the continuity of this effort until the Legislature is ready and able to weigh in during this next session.” “Today’s vote doesn’t just continue our commitment to border security. It increases it,” said Straus. “Expanding DPS’s presence is the most effective way to use these resources and protect Texans.”
Dewhurst’s successor, Lieutenant Governor-elect Dan Patrick, criticized the plan, specifically for its draw down of the Texas National Guard. In a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas, Patrick said that while he “welcomed” the expansion of funding to DPS, he believed that the funding for the National Guard should have also been extended through next August. ” Having the appropriate funds until August would give the next legislature adequate time to provide funding for the next budget without running out of funds in March,” he said. Patrick called border security a “top priority” for him and vowed, “We should not be cutting back on funding for the National Guard at this critical time. I will address this issue immediately upon taking office in late January so we can keep the National Guard on the border.”
After photographs of thousands of unaccompanied Central American children being detained by Border Patrol agents captured the nation’s attention this summer — a story broken by Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby — Perry ordered a border surge in June, deploying Texas National Guard troops to act as a “force multiplier” on the border with DPS. Since that time, however, interest in the issue has waned. Google Trends, the popular search engine’s free service that tracks interest in topics over time, shows that the search terms “texas border,” “border surge,” and “texas national guard” are all below their peak this past summer.
Perry’s deployment of the National Guard claimed a deterrent effect, with a reported 77 percent decrease in the number of illegal immigrants apprehended on the border in the Rio Grande Valley sector. However, the frequency of illegal border crossings has historically decreased as summer ends, and it is impossible to tell how much of this figure was due to the surge and how much was due to the natural ebb and flow of the traffic pattern. Grassroots conservative activists from around the state had also criticized this approach for still leaving hundreds of miles of the border vulnerable and relying too heavily on personnel — the Texas National Guard — who did not have the legal authority to actually detain anyone, as Breitbart Texas has reported.
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