HOUSTON — Texas Gov. Rick Perry said Monday that he would send 1,000 National Guard troops to the border with Mexico to bolster security as the Border Patrol faces an influx of Central American immigrants.
At a news conference in Austin, Mr. Perry said the border had been overwhelmed in recent months by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children entering the country illegally, and that criminals are exploiting the situation for human and drug trafficking.
The decision came after Mr. Perry spent the weekend in northern Iowa, his fourth visit in eight months to that key state for political primaries, as he contemplates a second run for president.
Nearly two weeks ago, Mr. Perry, one of the most vocal critics of the Obama administration’s handling of the border crisis, met with President Barack Obama in Dallas to discuss border security.
Tens of thousands of Central Americans fleeing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras have attempted to cross the state’s 1,200-mile border with Mexico in recent months.
The influx of illegal immigrants, many of them children and teenagers unaccompanied by any parent or guardian, has left federal officials scrambling to find emergency shelters to house them and to manage what Mr. Obama has called a humanitarian crisis.
Mr. Perry, state law enforcement officials and ranchers in the area have said Mexican drug cartels and other criminal organizations were benefiting from the diversion of resources, and so more security was needed. Still, the precise role the National Guard troops will play on the border is unclear. Previously, Mr. Perry has said he wanted any National Guard deployment to use helicopters and have “arrest powers to support Border Patrol operations.”
The deployment will likely be used by both Republicans and Democrats as a new rallying point in the debate over immigration. Republicans have accused the Obama administration of failing to secure the border and helping to create the crisis with policies that encourage, rather than discourage, illegal immigration.
Other Republicans in Texas and Washington have called upon Mr. Obama to deploy the National Guard to deal with the border crisis, but Mr. Perry could benefit from being viewed as the first to take action.
Democrats, including Texas lawmakers in the border region, immediately lined up in opposition to the deployment plan, calling it an attempt to score political points and to militarize the border.
“These military don’t need to be around families and children,” said Jennifer Saenz, a spokeswoman for state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who represents part of the Rio Grande Valley.
Last month, Mr. Perry directed the Texas Department of Public Safety, the state’s top law enforcement agency, to begin “surge operations” to combat crime at the border. The surge, which costs the state about $1.3 million per week and includes increased aircraft and maritime patrols, will continue at least until the end of the year and is being conducted, Mr. Perry and other Texas Republican leaders said in a statement, “in the absence of adequate federal resources to secure the border.”
Days after announcing the surge, Mr. Perry sent the president a letter June 20 criticizing “our porous border” and calling upon him to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops to the border and direct the Federal Aviation Administration to allow the troops to use Predator drones to combat human and drug smuggling. Mr. Perry’s criticisms played a role in getting Mr. Obama to agree to meet with him in Dallas, coming after the governor turned down what he called “a quick handshake on the tarmac” with the president, requesting a more “substantive meeting.”
Attempting to build support and momentum as he considers entering the 2016 Republican presidential race again after his disastrous campaign in 2012, Mr. Perry told a group of Iowa veterans Sunday that if Mr. Obama failed to send troops to the border, Texas leaders would do so under their own authority.
“We’ve sent the message that if we don’t get the satisfaction that the federal government’s going to move and move quickly, then the state of Texas will in fact fill that void,” Mr. Perry said Sunday in the Iowa town of Clear Lake, according to The Des Moines Register.United States - North America - United States military - United States government - Texas - Dallas - Barack Obama - Texas state government - Iowa - Rick Perry - U.S. National Guard - Mexico government - Mexican armed forces