Texas Governor Rick Perry said he will send as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to help secure the border with Mexico.
Perry, a Republican considering a second run for president, has been calling for President Barack Obama to stem the flow of children from Central America. About 57,000 unaccompanied minors have arrived at the border since October, double the total from fiscal 2013. Perry said in a statement that today’s decision would protect Texans by stopping drug smugglers and criminals from entering the U.S. He didn’t mention the migrant children.
“There can be no national security without border security, and Texans have paid too high a price for the federal government’s failure to secure our border,” Perry said. “The action I am ordering today will tackle this crisis head-on by multiplying our efforts to combat the cartel activity, human traffickers and individual criminals who threaten the safety of people across Texas and America.”
Perry, 64, is now mobilizing troops without Obama’s orders, a move that some local lawmakers say is the wrong approach when help is needed to address a humanitarian crisis.
“I don’t know of one city council member, county commissioner, court or school board member that has requested the militarization of the border,” said Representative Rene Oliveira, a Democrat from the border city of Brownsville. “They will have limited authority because they’re soldiers and warriors and not trained in law enforcement.”
Perry and his allies have criticized Obama’s handling of the crisis, pointing specifically to what they call a porous border that’s easing access for undocumented immigrants to cross. The issue has overwhelmed processing centers, shelters, courts and social-service agencies. It’s prompted immigrant-rights advocates to call on Obama to recognize the chaos as a refugee crisis, not an immigration problem.
In June, Perry and other Texas leaders directed the Public Safety Department, a state-level police force that includes the highway patrol and Texas Rangers, to begin a surge operation by putting more personnel along the border at a cost of $1.3 million per week.
Perry’s latest plans were reported earlier by the Monitor newspaper in McAllen.
Perry renewed a longstanding call for Obama to send troops after a July 9 meeting in Dallas to discuss border security. Obama asked Perry to push Congress to approve his request for $3.7 billion to address the crisis. When Obama didn’t visit the border, Perry traveled there July 10 with Fox News commentator Sean Hannity.
During a two-day swing through Iowa this weekend, Perry repeatedly talked about the immigration issue, and his Republican audiences often rewarded him with applause when he blamed Obama for being caught off guard by the flow of undocumented children in Texas and other states.
“If the federal government does not do its constitutional duty to secure the southern border of the United States, the state of Texas will do it,” he said to applause from an audience of about 100 gathered inside a hangar at the Mason City Airport.
Perry, who took office in late 2000 and is Texas’s longest-serving governor, is combining his call for a more secure border with efforts to revive his political standing after dropping out of the 2012 presidential race when he failed to name a federal agency he would eliminate during a debate.
“The insecurity on the border has brought him to a position where he can implement something he advocated for years and rebuild his reputation after his disastrous 2012 run,” said Calvin Jillson, professor of political science at Southern Methodist University near Dallas. “He can implement substantive policy to further his political goals.”
Perry’s efforts on the border could be part of an attempt to try to inoculate himself from the kind of criticism he received on the immigration issue during his previous presidential bid.
During the primary campaign, Perry was repeatedly criticized by eventual nominee Mitt Romney for his defense of a measure the Texas governor signed allowing undocumented immigrants who graduate from Texas high schools to receive lower in-state tuition rates at state colleges.
Romney called that measure a magnet for illegal immigration, while Perry defended it as a way to keep young people from becoming a drain on state resources.
The Justice Department is changing its policy to give unaccompanied minors and families with children priority in immigration court, which could speed deportations and dissuade others from coming. Most children won’t qualify for humanitarian relief and will be deported, said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest.
A report from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, though, found that 58 percent may qualify for international protection.
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