BASTROP, Texas — Texas Gov. Rick Perry told National and State Guard troops headed to the border region that they would play a key role in protecting the United States against “narco terrorists” who are “spreading their tentacles” into Texas and deep into the American heartland.
“You now are the tip of the spear, protecting Americans from these cartels and gangs,” Mr. Perry told a uniformed group of about 90 troops gathered in a warehouse at Camp Swift, about 35 miles east of Austin and 300 miles north of the border.
Mr. Perry, flanked by leaders of the Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety, noted that when he asked for 1,000 volunteers, he got 2,200. The troops will aid the department, which Mr. Perry and other Republican state leaders had already ordered to beef up staffing and equipment in a state-funded border deployment.
The DPS operation came after border crossings soared in recent months, with 63,000 unaccompanied children arriving since October, plus families, though their ranks have thinned in recent weeks. Most are from Central America.
The state operation cost $1.3 million a week, and the National Guard deployment added $12 million per month. Mr. Perry has called on the federal government to foot the bill, and so far is paying for the deployment by diverting $38 million in public safety funds earmarked for emergency radio infrastructure.
The governor would not say Wednesday how long the deployment would last, or how the state intended to pay for it, insisting that the federal government has a constitutional responsibility to cover the costs. Mr. Perry criticized Congress for going on vacation last week without acting on border funding legislation, and complained that the Federal Aviation Administration has barred the state from using drones to patrol the border. He called the Guard deployment a “stopgap measure,” and said federal authorities need to send more Border Patrol agents to the Rio Grande Valley, not points farther north.
Wednesday was the first time that Mr. Perry had appeared with National Guard troops since he deployed them. Journalists were in attendance but were not allowed to interview the troops.
Critics in Texas and beyond have accused Mr. Perry of exploiting the border crisis, saying he is using the deployment to confront President Barack Obama and burnish his conservative credentials for another possible campaign for president.
Mr. Perry asserted Wednesday that criminals have crossed the border and headed north to Iowa, and North and South Carolina, key presidential primary states that he noted he recently visited.
But he rejected the accusation that he’s grandstanding. “The idea that what we’re doing is politics versus protecting the people of Texas, the people of this country, is just false on its face,” he said.
Mr. Perry has not granted the troops arrest powers, as he has the power to do, but they will be armed for self-defense, said a spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Joanne MacGregor, who reiterated Wednesday that their primary mission on the border will be to “deter and refer” individuals to Border Patrol agents.United States - North America - United States military - United States government - Texas - Barack Obama - Texas state government - Rick Perry - U.S. National Guard