The Austin Chronicle

Governor Tough Guy Beats His Chest

By Michael King, July 22, 2014, 1:45pm, Newsdesk

Apparently not content with his earlier Fox News/Sean Hannity ‘We Got Guns’ Tour of the Mexican border, with great fanfare Gov. Rick Perry announced Monday he would send 1,000 National Guard troops to “tackle this crisis head-on” – although local law enforcement said they didn’t know what the troops might be able to do.

The Guard troops do not have police authority and cannot detain or arrest people, but Perry described them as a “force multiplier” and Guard officials said their role would be “referring and deterring.” Local law enforcement told the Dallas Morning News that they saw little point in the deployment and didn’t know what help the troops could be. In a representative remark, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio told the DMN, “At this time, a lot of people do things for political reasons. I don’t know that it helps.”

The great majority of the recent influx has been comprised of families, as well as an estimated 60,000 unaccompanied children, but Perry’s press release conjured “drug cartels” to suggest that the children were distracting officials from crime fighting. “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 our 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.”

The Guard will join a Texas Department of Public Safety deployment already in progress and designated “Operation Strong Safety”: just the sort of inapt football metaphor beloved of drill sergeants and Republican politicians.

Newsdesk feels much safer already.

The additional deployment will reportedly cost $12 million a month (the cumulative cost is estimated at $5 million per week) and Perry suggested he will attempt to get the federal government to reimburse Texas for the expense. If that doesn’t happen, the governor’s office suggested there could be funding cuts to such areas as transportation and health care.

A few representative responses from other quarters:

“Since the beginning of this humanitarian crisis, elected and law-enforcement officials in the Rio Grande Valley have observed no increase in crime, which is not a surprise. These are children who are running into the arms of the Border Patrol agents. They aren’t sneaking in. They aren’t resisting arrest. They have come to escape the violence and crime in their own countries. Yet Governor Perry insists on needlessly further militarizing our border for what can only be interpreted as a political stunt.” – Terri Burke, executive director, ACLU of Texas

“What good with this do? Are they going to push the kids and mother back across the river, shoot at them, or what? What the Governor doing is nonsensical and exposing National Guard officers to civil rights liability in federal court. … “Obviously, it’s important to protect the border; but it’s equally important to protect and provide for the thousands of children who are now in the country. … We’re dealing with young children, not adults. This is not the children’s fault that they are caught up in violence in their homelands, and we have a humanitarian duty to them until we can figure out how to respond appropriately to the situation.” – Jim Harrington, director, Texas Civil Rights Project

“As a sixth-generation Texan whose family has lived along the border, with extensive relationships with border law enforcement, faith and community leaders in the Rio Grande Valley for decades, I believe Governor Perry’s decision is the wrong way to go. Instead of ignoring local leaders and acting unilaterally, Washington, D.C., and Austin should act responsibly. To keep Texans safe, we should support our local and state law enforcement and first responders with the resources that they request and need.” – Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov.

“Once again, Texas taxpayers are being forced to pay for Governor Perry’s grandiose political ambitions. It is a costly misuse of our highly skilled National Guard to demand its service as a mere referral agent for children seeking refuge from abuse.  Doing its job effectively, our Border Patrol does not need interference from either Governor Perry or vigilantes. We deserve Texas tough, but today we get only Texas Governor weak – weak on any bipartisan solutions, weak on any meaningful action.” – U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Austin.

And then there’s this: Although nobody asked them, in a gesture of pointless xenophobia, the City Council of Marble Falls (Pop. 6,100; 28% Hispanic) voted unanimously to reject any federal move to engage in “processing, housing, or detaining illegal aliens, designated as ‘refugees’” in the City of Marble Falls.

People interested in assisting the effort to aid the refugees can contact the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition, at 512/476-2472.

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