BROWNSVILLE, RGV – The Rio South Texas Economic Council has come out against Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops on the Texas-Mexico border.

Perry made an announcement on the activation at a news conference in Austin on Monday. He said the National Guard troops will act as “force multipliers” by assisting the Texas Department of Public Safety’s ongoing law enforcement “surge,” which is otherwise known as Operation Strong Safety. It is focused on combatting criminal activity along the border that has arisen, Perry said, from the federal government’s failure to adequately secure the border.

RSTEC comprises Valley cities, economic development corporations and private businesses. Its aim is to “foster an improved economy, educational opportunities, and environmental quality by promoting the Lower Rio Grande Valley and attracting growth businesses to the border region to take advantage of an educated work force and international markets.” The group this goal is less likely to be reached with the National Guard present in the region.

“Business leaders of the Rio Grande Valley and the Rio South Texas Economic Council ask the governor to reconsider his decision to send National Guard troops to our border communities,” said Eduardo Campirano, director of the Port of Brownsville and RSTEC chairman.

Rio South Texas Economic Council members are pictured at a board meeting in Brownsville last April. The group opposes the deployment of National Guard troops on the border.
Rio South Texas Economic Council members are pictured at a board meeting in Brownsville last April. The group opposes the deployment of National Guard troops on the border.

In a statement, Campirano said a recent surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the river, according to latest Border Patrol numbers, appears to have diminished and Customs and Border Patrol seem to be effectively processing those that have entered the U.S.

“Reports from Central America also show a dramatic drop in children traveling to the Guatemalan border with Mexico. Federal and local law enforcement in Texas have given us no indication there has been any significant changes in amounts or types of contraband entering our country,” Campirano said.

“Adding a military presence to our communities will only create an inaccurate image that our safe and viable border region in the Rio Grande Valley is dangerous, and that the problem is not presently being managed, which is not the case. This erroneous impression can harm our attempts to recruit new businesses. We respectfully ask the governor to rescind his orders to send the National Guard to the border.”

Following his announcement about the activation of the National Guard, a reporter pointed out to Perry that crime along the border has not increased since the large influx of unaccompanied children from Central America started. “Take a look at the graphic,” Perry responded, pointing to a visual aid he had at the news conference. “Talk to the sheriff of Parker County who had a young child molested by a four-time deportee. The idea that the border is without crime is a very false statement. And Texans understand that. The vast majority of the people along the border understand that.”

Perry said the statistics show that since the fall of 2008, 642,000 criminal acts by been committed by undocumented immigrants. “I will suggest to you that on its face, the evidence that the people of Texas are looking at, not some anecdotal story that you have brought for us today,” Perry told the reporter.

Asked what the National Guard troops will be doing on the border, Perry said: “What we are asking the National Guard to do is to be a force multiplier, to be there as a partner with the law enforcement, something which they have done multiple times before. These are individuals that come from our communities. These are our teachers, our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters who also are in our National Guard. They go to our border on a regular basis. As a matter of fact they’ll be there next month with Operation Lone Star, through which we deliver healthcare, along with our health and human services agency. So, this idea that somehow there is a militarization going on is frankly a little offensive to the folks of the National Guard.”

In a news release, Perry said he had directed Texas Adjutant General John Nichols to immediately begin preparations for the deployment of up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. He said these troops will “support the Texas Department of Public Safety’s ongoing law enforcement surge, Operation Strong Safety, which is focused on combatting criminal activity in the region resulting from the federal government’s failure to adequately secure the border.”

Since 2008, Perry said, more than 203,000 criminal aliens have been booked into Texas county jails. “Over the course of their criminal careers, these individuals have committed more than 640,000 crimes in the state of Texas alone, including more than 3,000 homicides and nearly 8,000 sexual assaults,” he said.

Perry said 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 the border. “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 said the National Guard deployment “builds upon” Operation Strong Safety by providing additional personnel that will work “seamlessly and side by side” with law enforcement officials. He said it also builds on the National Guard’s existing border presence, which has been utilizing air assets to patrol the region looking for illegal activity.

“Texas has already seen results from Operation Strong Safety – from week 1 to week 3 of operations, apprehensions of illegal immigrants have dropped by 36 percent, from more than 6,600 per week to 4,200 per week in the area of operation,” Perry said.

Perry pointed out that he met with President Obama two weeks ago to discuss the “ongoing humanitarian and national security crises occurring along the Texas-Mexico border.” At that meeting, Perry reiterated his request for the president to activate 1,000 Title 32 National Guard troops to temporarily support border security operations until 3,000 additional Border Patrol personnel have been trained and deployed. “Unlike the governor’s activation which will be paid for by Texas taxpayer dollars, a Title 32 activation would have provided additional, federally funded personnel to be used at the state’s discretion.”

At the Perry news conference on Monday, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he could take legal action if the federal government does not reimburse Texas for its deployment of the National Guard.

“We don’t want or expect this situation to lead to litigation because we think Washington will step up and do the right thing,” Abbott said. “But, we must be prepared to take legal action if that is the course that is necessary. Texans are willing to put the boots on the ground but we expect Washington to foot the bill.”