AUSTIN, Texas–A coalition of conservative, tea party, and grassroots activists–along with other Texans concerned about the situation at the border–gathered at the Capitol for a press conference this week. Despite the conservative leanings of the speakers, some of the harshest criticism was directed at two Republicans: Texas Governor Rick Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott.
Clearly frustrated with the response–or lack thereof–from President Obama and the federal government, the speakers turned their focus to the actions that are within the powers of the state of Texas, demanding that Perry and Abbott direct their powers at Texas elected officials to protect the border and call up the Texas National Guard, as well as a separate demand for a special session just to address this issue.
“We have all reached the conclusion that Governor Perry needs to stop asking Washington to come save us,” said Grassroots America Executive Director JoAnn Fleming in her opening remarks. “Washington is not on its way to save us. We’re asking Governor Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott…to work together to invoke Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution; that gives states rights to declare an ‘imminent danger’…and to call up the Texas National Guard.”
Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 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.”
Several of the speakers expressed sympathy for the young children who had arrived on the border. However, they also noted that the young children were “only twenty percent of the problem” and the majority of the new arrivals were teenagers and adults, many of whom were pretending to be younger than they were, and that the number had surged beyond the capacity of Border Patrol to handle it.
Katrina Pierson from the Garland Tea Party had some of the harshest criticism for Perry, almost accusing him of being absentee. “We have a governor who retired in 2011,” she said, “but still pretends to be on his bench, traveling all over the country, talking about how great Texas is, and how much money we have, and our job creation. But when it comes down to the border, we just don’t have the resources.”
Kaufman County TEA Party representative Ray Myers drew applause when he asked what would happen if Perry declared that Obama was in dereliction of his duty and that Texas was sending the Texas National Guard to the border. “What do you think his poll numbers would be?” Myers asked, repeating the call from other speakers for a special session and increased enforcement at the border.
Ken Emanuelson with the Grassroots Texans Network elaborated on the actions they would like to see Perry and Abbott take to secure the border. Stating that Perry could not outsource the role of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the people of Texas to President Obama, Emanuelson challenged Perry to order the Texas National Guard to the border immediately. “You are the Governor of Texas. The Texas National Guard reports to you. Put them to work!”
Emanuelson also encouraged state officials to formally request an opinion from the Attorney General’s office regarding the scope of their powers and what they could legally accomplish in a special session.
Alice Linahan with Women on the Wall was one of several speakers who addressed the impact of the border crisis on our educational system. Linahan, whose own children attend Texas public schools, shared her concerns that the school districts had not been given adequate information about the immigrant children who were arriving in their districts: the schools do not even have accurate head counts of how many children to expect in the fall.
In an interview with Breitbart Texas after the press conference, she expressed deep concerns about this unexpected burden negatively affecting the school systems, both in terms of numbers of new immigrant students, the language barrier, the older teenagers and young adults–some of whom were believed to be affiliated with the cartels–lying about their ages, as well as questioning whether there was enough time to conduct proper health screenings and vaccinations.
In calling for a special session, the speakers noted that the overwhelming numbers of immigrants coming across the border meant that waiting until the legislature next met for the regular 2015 legislative session was not practical. They believe that a special session should address how to fund proper enforcement at the border, end the practice of “sanctuary cities” of not checking immigration status, and to provide better support for property owners on the border.
After the press conference concluded, State Representative Steve Toth (R-15) spoke exclusively to Breitbart Texas. Toth was on the border five weeks ago and earlier this week to witness the situation firsthand, and supports this call for a special session. “It’s imperative that we call a special session,” said Toth. “To not [do so] would mean that this would not be dealt with until June, of 2015! We can’t wait until June of 2015. We’ve got to deal with it right now. We need to deploy the National Guard on the Southern border. We have 380 miles of the border that is not being covered right now. The cartel is basically pushing all these illegal immigrants towards the Rio Grande Valley and they’re overwhelming DPS, while the other 380 miles of border remain unsecured. We need a special session now.”
If a special session were called, Toth hopes that it would address “turning off the magnets,” or addressing some of the benefits that encourage illegal immigration, allocating the proper resources needed to deploy the Texas National Guard on the border, and developing a “longer term sustainable plan.” Such a plan could include taking unemployed Texans and veterans returning from overseas and employing them in the Texas State Guard along the border.
Toth concluded the interview by sharing his concerns about the detrimental effects on the public school system, that the new arrivals would “overwhelm” the public schools and should be returned to their home countries quicker than current immigration policies were allowing. Toth advocated for Texas taking the initiative to return these illegal immigrant children home, regardless of instructions from the federal government. He said, “If the federal government wants to sue us on this, let them sue us.”
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Sarah Rumpf is a political and communications consultant living in Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.