HIDLAGO, RGV – Mexico has again condemned Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to deploy the National Guard on the South Texas-Mexico border, claiming that the move was done for “political purposes.”

The criticism comes hard on the heels of a study by The Perryman Group which found that the Rio Grande Valley will be hurt economically as a result of the deployment of guard troops. Valley business leaders seized on Perryman’s study and urged the Legislature to commit millions of marketing dollars to promote the Valley in order to counter the “damage done” by the deployment of National Guard troops.

On Wednesday, Mexico’s foreign relations department issued this statement:

“The Mexican government reiterates its strongest repudiation and condemnation of the deployment of the first soldiers of the Texas National Guard, announced today by the Office of Governor Rick Perry.

“Mexico asserts that it is irresponsible to manipulate the current state of border security for political purposes. It reiterates that immigration must be addressed from a comprehensive and regional perspective, with a mid-term vision and with shared responsibility, to ensure peace, inclusion and prosperity in the region.

“The measure taken unilaterally by the Texas government is clearly erroneous and does not contribute to the efforts being made by our countries to create a secure border and a solution to the issue of immigration. It does not contribute to bringing our societies closer together and it opposes the principles and values by which Mexico and the United States govern their bilateral relationship.”

Mexico's Foreign Secretary, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña.
Mexico’s Foreign Secretary, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña.

Gov. Perry announced in July he would be deploying 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. Almost immediately, José Antonio Meade Kuribreña, Mexico’s foreign secretary, poured scorn on Perry’s plans. He said the wave of Central American children crossing into the United States from Mexico were of no threat to Texas.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Thursday that the was offended by Mexico’s news release.

“I find it puzzling and frankly offensive that the government of Mexico chose the 13th anniversary of the most tragic attack on our homeland to call on Texas to throw open our international border to illegal immigration, trafficking in drugs and human lives, and potentially even terrorists who wish to harm America,” Dewhurst said.

“It is also insulting to imply that protecting Texans is suddenly political when my fellow leaders and I have appropriated over $800 million in Texas tax revenue over the past seven years to purchase planes, helicopters, and gunboats to secure the border because the responsible government entities simply refuse to meet their obligation. I am proud of the deterrent effect we’ve achieved by surging law enforcement and the Texas National Guard to the region that is reflected in the falling number of apprehensions.

“On this day of all days, we are reminded of the threats, both foreign and domestic, that face our nation. Regardless of the source of such misguided criticism, I will always make my top priority each day to protect the safety of all Texas citizens.”

Famed Texas economist Ray Perryman unveiled his company’s study on the economic impact of the National Guard’s deployment at an RGV Equal Voice Network conference in Harlingen last Friday. The study found that during periods when troops are deployed, “economic performance is significantly worse.” The Perryman Group found that “total losses in business activity stemming from this weaker performance include more than $541.9 million in gross product in the Lower Rio Grande Valley each year as well as 7,830 jobs.”

Perryman followed up his remarks in Harlingen with an op-ed on the subject.

“The simulation assumed a one-year deployment period. It should be noted that, because this methodology is based on actual data from prior deployments, the measured impacts are determined on a “net” basis, meaning that they fully account for any offsetting benefits associated with the deployment. As an element of conservatism in the analysis, the impacts from the less costly of the two prior deployments were incorporated, thus understating the potential effects,” Perryman wrote.

“If historical patterns hold true, deploying National Guard troops to the US-Mexico border will lead to significant losses in business activity in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. While border security is an important issue, it should be recognized that economic performance is dampened during times when troops are deployed. Less intrusive and more effective measures are worthy of consideration.”

Speaking on News Talk 710 KURV, McAllen Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Ahlenius said he backed Perryman’s analysis.

“When you hear the National Guard being deployed images that come to your mind is Ferguson, Missouri, the image of lawlessness and unrest. From RSTEC’s perspective and from the business community’s perspective we think it sends the wrong message,” Ahlenius told KURV.

RSTEC stands for Rio South Texas Economic Council, which is a group of Valley cities and economic development corporations. Ahlenius is the group’s immediate past president.

Asked what he thought of the National Guard’s deployment in the Valley, Ahlenius told KURV: “I think it is great political theater but in terms of what the impact is, I think it does more harm for our businesses and does not do as much as they hope in terms of stemming the tide of illegal immigrants.”

Ahlenius said it is important to keep in mind that ten years ago there were 1.1 million undocumented immigrants apprehended in the Valley. “Last year we had 420,000. So the numbers have dropped dramatically and it has also changed,” Ahlenius said. “This year, so far, the Border Patrol is reporting 75 percent of all apprehensions are people coming from Central America. So the game has changed and I think the strategy needs to change.”

Ahlenius told KURV that when statewide elected officials speak negatively about the Valley it undermines the efforts of economic development specialists to land major new projects. For example, McAllen Economic Development Corporation is currently working hard to lure major Japanese and South Korea corporations to the Valley.

“We have to do a lot of explaining when new businesses come in and they see these things and they ask questions about it. There is a lot of effort that has to go in to explain why this is happening and what is going on and is it that unsafe. Once we get past that you get into the regular discussions that most businesses want to have about workforce, taxes, infrastructure and those kinds of things,” Ahlenius told KURV.

“What we are going to propose for this upcoming session is the State of Texas spends millions of dollars promoting the state. We are going to ask specifically for them to set aside money to promote the Rio Grande Valley as a place for businesses, for investment and opportunity, in the light of what the state has done in terms of sending the National Guard.

“This two county area contributes $62 billion in gross domestic product. That is a lot of investment. That is a lot of money. That is a lot of production that is being done. We just think that anytime the government does something to hurt that, it is wrong.”

Meanwhile, Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, on Wednesday unveiled a summary of border incidents and a data report related to historical trends of crime along the Texas-Mexico border. McCraw said he is calling it the “Texas Border Security Dashboard.” Click here to view the dashboard.

“At the request of the Texas Legislature, DPS is providing unclassified, detailed information about the trends that have been developing along the border for some time, as well as the current activity occurring in the OSS area of operation,” McCraw said, in reference to the “dashboard.”

McCraw said a “border surge operation” DPS is currently conducting is data-driven and focused on high-threat areas. He said the purpose is to “deny Mexican cartels and their associates the ability to move drugs and people into Texas between the ports of entry, as well as reduce the power of these organizations, whose success depends on their ability to operate on both sides of the border.”

McCraw said Mexican cartels are the most significant organized crime threat to Texas, with seven of the eight cartels operating command and control networks in the state, moving drugs and people into the United States, and transporting cash, weapons and stolen vehicles back to Mexico.

In short, he said, an unsecure U.S.-Mexico border is a state and national security problem.

“DPS personnel, as well as the brave men and women of the U.S. Border Patrol, local law enforcement agencies, state partners and members of the Texas National Guard, are working around-the-clock to keep the local communities safe through Operation Strong Safety,” the DPS press office states, in a news release issued on Sept. 11.