AUSTIN, Texas — Thursday at the Texas Capitol, a group of grassroots tea party activists gathered for a press conference to share the “Texas Border Crisis Action Plan” they had created after years of frustration with a government that they characterized as “criminally negligent in their duties.”
Speakers included JoAnn Fleming, the Executive Director of Grassroots America, Dale Huls, a board member of the Clear Lake TEA Party and Texas Border Volunteer, Mary Huls, the President of the Clear Lake TEA Party and Texas Border Volunteer, George Rodriguez, the South Texas coordinator for TEA Party Patriots and the President of the South Texas Political Alliance, Dwayne Stovall, the Director of Keep Texas Free, LLC and School Board Trustee for the Tarkington Independent School District, and Heidi Theiss, Vice President of the Clear Lake TEA Party and League City Council Member.
Several of these grassroots activists, including Fleming, had participated in an earlier press conference at the Capitol, back in July, where they laid out their frustration with both federal and state elected officials, requested Texas Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott to call up the National Guard, and asked for Perry to call a special session of the Texas Legislature to address border issues. To date, Texas officials have not been receptive to the idea of a special session, but just a few days after their July press conference, Perry announced he was deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to the border.
Fleming and Dale Huls were the primary authors of the Texas Border Crisis Action Plan, which is available online at Grassroots America’s website. According to a statement released by the group:
The plan describes the roles the Governor, Attorney General, and the Legislature should play in framing a constitution-based justification for Texas securing its border. The plan stakes out the role state leaders should play in developing the proper mission for an effective border security effort and in making provision for necessary funding for the Department of Public Safety, the Texas National Guard, and the Texas Military (as defined by the Texas Constitution) to actually secure the Texas border with Mexico.
Fleming gave introductory remarks at the press conference, and outlined the long-standing frustration she and her fellow tea party leaders have with not just the federal government, but also the state government. “This country is spiraling out of control,” Fleming said, because we have abandoned the rule of law and are failing to protect our borders. She stated that she supported immigration, but emphasized that immigrants needed to come to this country legally, entering through one of the 29 legal ports of entry in Texas.
All of the activists who were there to speak at the press conference had visited the border in a trip organized by Breitbart Texas , Fleming explained. They had taken pains to make sure that “it was not a dog and pony show” for them, as they had visited not just the Rio Grande Valley sector that had gotten so much media attention, but also the Laredo Sector. Fleming noted that the RGV sector was the only sector that had an increased level of personnel, but it was “most assuredly” not yet secure.
Fleming advocated for Texas to refuse to participate in the federal “catch and release” immigration policies, where illegal immigrants are released into the United States with little more than some paperwork setting a hearing date months or even years into the future. “When is it going to be enough?” asked Fleming, citing the high cost burden of illegal immigration on Texas and the Border Patrol agents who had lost their lives in the line of duty.
Dale Huls spoke next, and shared how he was “outraged” that his state government had failed to adequately take action in response to the border crisis, and he asked why the task of creating an action plan had fallen to “regular people” like himself. “In their own words, they have called this an emergency situation,” said Huls, sharing his view that many Texas elected officials had delivered sharp speeches blaming the federal government but failed to act to implement any substantive ideas that were, in fact, within their control
Huls was especially frustrated that he felt their demands for a special session had been dismissed or even flat out rejected. “We expected leadership,” he said, and called the refusal to call a special session “shocking.” The goal of the group, Huls explained, was to “remove the shield of ignorance” behind which our elected officials were hiding. “If something bad happens in our state, don’t just blame the federal government…we [will] hold our state leaders accountable.”
Rodriguez, a fifth generation Texan, spoke next. He too was frustrated with current immigration policies and the humanitarian crises they were created. “We can’t be the orphanage for the rest of the world, we can’t be the ATM for the rest of the world,” said Rodriguez. “This border has been open since 1848 and we haven’t done a darn thing about it,” he added, and the world is not what it was in 1848
Mary Huls spoke next to address the moral issues related to the their plan and the border crisis, which she described as “this really is a humanitarian issue.” She called the sympathy-inducing photos of the unaccompanied minors “a distraction,” noting as others have that the children are no more than twenty percent of those crossing the border, and they are providing cover for dangerous criminals.
“Texas’ heart does go out to the children,” she said, but it is impossible to separate the good from the bad without a secure border. Huls described the many women and children who end up killed, raped, molested, forced into sexual slavery, and so on. She then said that our current system ended up enabling all these horrifying crimes by providing not just a “magnet” of jobs and social welfare that encourages people to come, but also by releasing unaccompanied alien children to “sponsors” who are supposed to be relatives and family friends, but little was done to verify their identities. “How do we know who the people are who come to pick them up at the detention centers? …Are we selling these kids into a life of sex slavery?”
Theiss, a local elected official from League City, has lived in Mexico in the past, near the border with Belize. She told how she saw how strictly Mexico used to enforce its border, witnessing first hand scared Guatemalan immigrants running and hiding from Mexican authorities. Now, however, Mexico is actively encouraging and expediting traffic from Central America to Texas. Central Americans are given medical care, supplies, and a free travel visa to journey through Mexico, provided that they continue to American and do not try to stay in Mexico.
“The free flow of traffic is coming directly into Texas,” said Theiss, and the surge of immigrants we’ve seen so far this year is “going to be dwarfed,” with Mexico continuing to expand this program.
Theiss then had sharp words to critique Texas government officials. “We have a state government that is negligent, criminally negligent, in their duties,” she said. They campaigned on rule of law, she said, put on a tough act, but “they’ve failed in every regard” to actually address the broader border issues.
“Shame on the governor and all the way down,” said Theiss.
Stovall began his remarks by citing the rising cost of illegal immigrants to the state of Texas: from $8.9 billion in 2010, to $12 billion in 2013. By failing to take action to solve the problem, Texas government officials were essentially “accomplices” to the criminal activity associated with the border crisis.
Fleming then shared more details about how their plan was created and its key points. The Border Patrol agents are “begging the American people to stand up for them and let them do their jobs,” she said, but “what our state government is doing is not going to solve the problem.”
The main authority for what Flemings’ group hopes the state will do is Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution, which states: “No State shall, without the Consent of Congress, lay any Duty of Tonnage, keep Troops, or Ships of War in time of Peace, enter into any Agreement or Compact with another State, or with a foreign Power, or engage in War, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent Danger as will not admit of delay.” They want Perry to invoke the constitutional authority and declare a state of imminent danger in Texas from what is essentially an invasion of people streaming across our border.
Again, they did not want to wait for the regular 2015 session to start, but called for immediate action, partly through executive orders for items under the authority of the Governor of Texas, and a special session of the legislature to address all others.
Key recommendations in the Texas Border Crisis Action Plan:
- Form a “Texas military border brigade” from DPS officers, activating the National Guard, and authorizing extra funding from sources like the Rainy Day Fund and eliminating business incentives like the Texas Enterprise Fund, subsidies to Formula 1, etc.
- Fortify border security by adding fences, electronic monitoring technology, and boots on the ground.
- Stop providing social welfare services to illegal immigrants.
- End “sanctuary cities.”
- Prevent illegal immigrant children from attending Texas schools.
- Increase criminal penalties for employing illegal workers, especially for repeat offenders.
- Stop following the federal “catch and release” policies, but because of the declared emergency, hold illegal immigrants in jail until they can be returned to their home country.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.