In a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick announced that he is seeking $12 million to continue the border surge of Texas National Guard troops through May. They are currently scheduled to leave next month, and have been scaling back their numbers.
As Breitbart Texas reported, former Governor Rick Perry had ordered a surge of Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers and deployed 1,000 Guard troops to the border last year in response to the thousands of families and unaccompanied minor children, mostly from Central America, who were crossing the border illegally.
According to Patrick, the surge had had a positive impact on border security, with an increased number of apprehensions of illegal immigrants. “The word got out, that Texas was serious about securing our border,” he said. “You don’t stop doing something that’s working.”
Patrick also said that the Mexican drug cartels are “ramping up,” knowing that the Guard was scheduled to leave the border soon. He also predicted that President Barack Obama’s plan to grant amnesty to millions of immigrants illegally in this country would lead to a new surge of people crossing the border this spring and summer. “Under no circumstance should we have a complete pullout of the National Guard next month,” he said. “We have that money and we need to spend that money to keep the Guard there.”
Texas’ border security challenges are exacerbated by the federal government’s failures, said Patrick, but he added that Texas would do what was necessary to keep its people safe. “The Texas taxpayers are having to bear the brunt of this,” said Patrick. “It’s their responsibility but it’s our problem.”
In November of last year, Perry, along with Speaker of the House Joe Straus and former Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst, had announced a plan to fund the border surge for several months, to maintain a steady presence on the border as the new legislative session began and the newly elected state leaders took office. That plan directed approximately $86 million in surplus funds from several different state accounts, as Breitbart Texas reported, including disaster relief funds that had gone unused, money earmarked for debt service that was not spent due to lower-than-expected interest rates, and remaining emerging technology funds.
The current version of the Texas Senate budget already includes $815 million for border security, which Patrick described as funding those efforts at “the highest levels in history.” In addition, Patrick said that he will be working to get the Legislature to pass a supplemental bill that would fund Guard deployments through August.
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) expressed reservations about Patrick’s plan, telling The Texas Tribune that while he supported the DPS surge, he did not believe that the Guard troops were helpful. “I don’t think it’s effective to have thousands of guardsmen on the border. I think it’s counterproductive,” said Hinojosa, adding that he preferred that the money for the Guard deployment be redirected to DPS.
Grassroots activists have also been skeptical of the state’s border security efforts, as Breitbart Texas has reported. One of their chief complaints has been the focus of attention and resources on the Rio Grande Valley Sector, which covers only about a quarter of the Texas border, leaving hundreds of miles still vulnerable.
Patrick left immediately after the press conference without taking any questions. It remains to be seen how many Guard troops will remain at the border, or if their duties or regions where they are deployed will change. As Breitbart Texas reported, the Guard troops have been serving a supportive role for DPS, with the Guard acting as a “force multiplier” to “deter and refer” any observed attempts at illegal border crossing to DPS, who would then be responsible for actually detaining and arresting people. He did say that the “long term plan” was to draw down the Guard troops and replace them with DPS officers.
Breitbart Texas reached out to Governor Greg Abbott’s office for comment on Patrick’s announcement but did not receive a reply as of press time. Patrick said during the press conference that he had discussed border security with Abbott many times, and that the two “stood shoulder to shoulder on border security.”
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.