Dewhurst Discusses National Guard at Border

Dewhurst Discusses National Guard at Border

AUSTIN, Texas–Yesterday afternoon, Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst joined Governor Rick Perry, Attorney General Greg Abbott, as well as leadership from the Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) for a press conference at the Capitol to announce the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas border. As noted by Breitbart Texas’ Bob Price, there was not enough time at the press conference to address all the legal, strategic, and financial issues raised by this deployment. Dewhurst gave an exclusive interview to Breitbart Texas after the conclusion of the press conference, shedding light on some of these topics.

Dewhurst spoke at length regarding his concerns about the public safety risks posed by the border crisis, as and gave more details regarding where the troops would be deployed, the scope of their activities, and how they would be funded. You can watch the entire interview below in an exclusive Breitbart Texas video, and some highlights are provided as well.

Where the National Guard would be deployed: first to RGV sector, then reevaluate

The initial deployment will be to the Rio Grande Valley (RGV) sector, which as Breitbart Texas Managing Director Brandon Darby notes, only constitutes about a quarter of the over 1,200 mile long southern Texas border. Perry described this this area as the “center of gravity” for cartel activity yesterday, and Dewhurst described the ultimate objective of the focus on the RGV sector as to “cause a tremendous disruption” in the cartel activity. This will be achieved by shutting down illegal border crossing, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and all other criminal activity in the sector.

Dewhurst noted that they were in the process right now, having committed to the surge of activity by DPS and this additional deployment of the Texas National Guard, of evaluating exactly how to allocate these resources. “Those decisions on where [the DPS and National Guard are being deployed] are being made as we speak, but they’re not in concrete,” said Dewhurst, noting that they would work with General Nichols to redirect efforts as needed. Part of this is necessarily a waiting game, to see how the cartels will react, how they will try to “circumvent” the increased enforcement activities. 

“This is going to be a fluid, organized, law enforcement and military operation, where I can see that we’d be moving some of our forces back and forth depending on what the cartels do,” Dewhurst said. “I want to see us shut down the border, I want us to show the federal government how to do it. And have them do it not only in Texas, but New Mexico, Arizona, and California.”

Addressing the border crisis in Brooks County and other adjacent counties

The border crisis is not just affecting counties directly on the border, but also the adjacent counties, which are largely rural. Breitbart Texas reporter Bob Price has covered the situation in Brooks County in depth, where Border Patrol agents have apprehended over 27 thousand illegal immigrants at the Falfurrias checkpoint, located about 80 miles north of the border. As a non-border county, Brooks County is not eligible for many of the federal and state funds that go to support border enforcement activities, and it is an overwhelming financial burden on the sparsely populated county.

Dewhurst noted that he had been following the Breitbart Texas coverage from Brooks County, and how the costs associated with illegal immigration were devastating to their law enforcement budget, sharply limiting their ability to hire police officers and purchase equipment. Brooks County relies heavily on a volunteer police force, but struggles to provide uniforms and safety gear. Dewhurst sent a donation this week that would buy 10 uniforms, and commented that there needed to be a change in the law that required an autopsy for all bodies that were found. These autopsies are producing little, if any, useful information–it’s hardly a mystery why people die after trekking hundreds of miles through dry, scorchingly hot areas–but each one costs the county between $1,500 and $2,000. “I have been down to Brooks County many times,” said Dewhurst. “I have seen the fresh footprints of the tsunami of people coming through Brooks County going north.”

How the deployment will be funded

The Texas National Guard’s activities on the border are being funded by state funds, about $12 or 13 million per month, totaling about $160 million annually. Currently, there is no specific promise or plan for the federal government to absorb any of that cost, although all of the Texas officials who spoke at yesterday’s press conference very clearly expressed their requests for that to happen.

As far as what part of the Texas budget is being used to pay for this deployment, Dewhurst said that the Governor’s office has what are called “trustee funds,” which come from law enforcement seizures and similar sources, and could be used by the Governor upon the declaration of an emergency. Final decisions have yet to be made whether the deployment would be exclusively covered by the trustee funds, or whether they would call a meeting of the Legislative Budget Board (LBB) to move excess funds from other departments.

Dewhurst emphatically pointed out that he strongly supported this expenditure. “At the end of the day, we shouldn’t have a ceiling that’s too low. The cost of illegal immigration to the state of Texas according to third party studies is several billion dollars…and dangerous drugs [coming in]. Is there a price on what we should invest to save lives? And [what about] human trafficking, bringing in small children for sex, and national security threats crossing the border? I submit there’s no price tag on that. We need to do what’s necessary. And that’s a characteristic of all of us as Texans. We’ll go do what’s necessary.”

Dewhurst also noted that as lieutenant governor, he had directed funds to be spent over the past seven years for increased DPS presence on the border, high altitude aircraft and gun boats to monitor the border, costing about $800 million.

Scope of the National Guard activities: “deter and refer”

The deployment will involve 1,000 National Guard troops, which Dewhurst noted would double the amount of state personnel on the border. Their role would be to “support” DPS, which functions as the state police of Texas. He described their duties as to “be the eyes and ears, notify the DPS when drug smugglers are coming in, human traffickers are coming in, so that the DPS can detain them, arrest them if necessary, and turn them over to the Immigration and Naturalization Service.”

Dewhurst noted that the National Guard “is authorized to stop people involved in illegal activity and detain them,” but did reconfirm the statements from Perry, Nichols, and others that the National Guard would be mainly directed to act as observers, and allow DPS to continue their active role in detaining and processing people.

Supportive of calls for a special session if focused

When asked about recent calls by Texas grassroots activists for a special session, Dewhurst said he had spoken to grassroots and tea party leaders across the state on that very issue. “I’m always in favor of more transparency…and if we can identify a list of things that we want to see accomplished, then I’m all for it, a special session.” Absent such a list, Dewhurst supports the deployment of the National Guard, and noted that was within the powers of the Governor and did not require a special session. “Let’s figure out what we need to do. If we need to change statutes, then we need to go into a special session.”

Informational resources

Dewhurst said that the best resources for Texans to stay informed on the border crisis were the DPS and Texas National Guard websites, and he encouraged people to contact his office as well.

Sarah Elizabeth Rumpf is a political and communications consultant living in Austin. You can follow her on Twitter at @rumpfshaker.