Members of the National Guard, who were called out earlier this month by Republican Gov. Rick Perry to aid authorities in defending the shared border with Mexico, have reportedly contacted a local food bank to determine whether approximately 50 of them may be eligible to receive food and fuel. According to reports, the Guardsmen have been serving without pay since they were called up.
Omar Rodriguez, the manager of communications and advocacy for the Rio Grande Valley Food Bank in Hidalgo County TX, told the San Antonio Express-News on August 29 that he did not know how many of his clients are Guardsmen since clients are not asked to identify their employment, A spokespersons for the National Guard averred that some Guardsmen have not been paid and that the service members had asked for assistance from the National Guard.
The Guardsmen have been deployed since August 11, but will not be paid until September 5, according to various media reports. The Guardsmen stay in commercial lodging and are expected to purchase food with their pay rather than being provided rations as are other branches of the military. They can file requests for temporary financial assistance. However, a Guard spokes person could not say when the Guardsmen would be sent to the local charitable group.
"The well-being of our service members remains a top priority, and all members supporting the operation are furnished with lodging, meals, transportation, and the equipment required to perform their mission," a statement from the Guard read. Guards are not authorized to detain or question anyone, due to federal law, but they do carry automatic weapons for self-defense.
State Rep. Rene Oliveira, a Democrat from the border town of Brownsville blamed the controversy on poor planning and said that having the Guardsmen relegated to charity is disrespectful, according to the San Antonio newspaper.
Gov. Perry deployed 1,000 National Guards in July of this year as part of an effort by the Texas Department of Public Safety to stem the tide of illegal migrants crossing into Texas. This was a response, Perry said at the time, to overcrowding in detention centers where thousands of minors from Central America were being housed. Texas is spending approximately $18 million per month on the effort. Perry has not responded to queries from the San Antonio Express-News. The number of those crosssing has slowed down considerably during the month of August, from the high in June.