Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced on July 21 the deployment of 1,000 Texas National Guards to the U.S. border with Mexico. The former Republican presidential candidate said that he cannot stand by while "our citizens are under siege." Perry said in Austin TX that he will not wait for President Barack Obama to take action as narcoterrorists and other criminals exploit the current surge of illegal immigrants to cross into the United States. Perry claimed that roughly 20 percent of those being apprehended illegally crossing the border are criminals, while he predicted crime in the Lone Star State will skyrocket. The Republican said further that his fellow Texans should not be compelled to pay for processing, feeding and housing the surge of illegal immigrants that some are blaming on Obama’s so-called ‘Dream Act’ that afforded young immigrants the possibility remaining in the U.S. for their education if they had crossed into the country as minors.
Currently, most of the surge of immigrants seeking to reach the U.S. are coming from three of the Central American republics: El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. All of these are experiencing significant violence as security forces seek to control criminal organizations such as Mara Salvatrucha, which is involved in human trafficking and the drug trade on the isthmus.
Perry has repeatedly called on President Obama to visit the border, calling his refusal Obama’s “Katrina,” moment. Overcrowding at holding facilities in the Rio Grande Valley has caused Federal bureaucrats and officials to scramble to find emergency shelters for the thousands of illegal alien minors. Some are expected to be sent far from the region for processing and temporary housing. Some will eventually stand before immigration judges to determine their claims for refugee status. Residents of a small rural town in Michigan have expressed opposition to housing them at a facility operated by Wolverine Human Services of Detroit. As many as 120 unaccompanied minors will be held at a Vassar MI facility for one month while receiving counseling and medical care during the lengthy intake process. Elsewhere in the country, protesters for and against immigration have expressed strong opinions about harboring the illegal immigrants. In Murrieta CA, protesters barred the road to buses ferrying the immigrants from federal detention to other facilities. Humanitarian groups and churches have responded to the crisis with charity, while in some cases they have provided emergency shelter to the immigrants.
Texas State Senator Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa said in advance of Perry’s announcement that National Guardsmen are being deployed to relieve overworked Texas state troopers. According to Jennifer Saenz, a spokesperson for Hinojosa, "The senator understands that Perry wants this troop build-up, but is not sure what kind of federal approval he needs for it. He just knows he wants to deploy 1,000 troops there." Numerous citizens groups had demanded action by Perry in response to the crisis. A group of citizens and activists met in Austin on July 18 and demanded the deployment of the Guard. It also demanded a special session for the Texas legislature in order to handle the humanitarian crisis in south Texas. It is expected that this year more than 90,000 undocumented immigrant children will cross the border. According to The Latino Post, an online publication, most of the minors crossing the border are unaccompanied, while the majority of them are young girls.
A leaked memo attributed to another state official indicates that the Guard will be deployed to the western Rio Grande Valley area, as well as to ranch lands further north. Cited in the McAllen Monitor, the memo declared, “This is not a militarization of the border. The DPS and the National Guard are working to keep any drug and human trafficking south of [U.S. Highway] 83 and with the goal of keeping any smuggling from entering major highways to transport East/West/and North.” The deployment is expected to cost taxpayers approximately $12 million per month.
Perry has been vocal in his criticism of Obama’s handling of the crisis. Obama refused to visit the border, having dismissed it as “theater” despite an invitation from Perry. The two later had a meeting in Dallas on the issue after Perry neglected to greet Obama at a Texas airport when the Chief Executive was on a fundraising trip.
Perry has previously said that he wanted to provide helicopters to the National Guard and give it “arrest powers to support Border Patrol operations.” The outspoken governor has also called for the use of drones.
Social media reacted to Perry’s July 21 announcement of National Guard involvement in the crisis. Some Twitter users questioned the legality and prudence of the move. Twitter user Raul Gonzalez wrote, for instance, “Governor Rick Perry is sending 1,000 troops to shoot at kids on the border.”
Perry met with Hispanic Evangelical pastors in San Antonio on July 19 to talk about the role of the faith community in addressing the immigration crisis. Speaking to a forum organized by the LIBRE Initiative, a non-partisan advocacy group, Perry described his visit to a Border Patrol facility where he saw hundreds of mothers and children who had fled the violence and poverty of Central America. “I saw how our country's refusal to commit the resources necessary to secure our borders are directly impacting those children," said Perry.