Lt. Gov. Patrick announces record border security funding
Expects Texas National Guard to stay beyond March
AUSTIN, Texas – Fulfilling a promise made during his inaugural speech, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced what he said was the highest level of border security funding in the state's history.
However, the final price tag will be to the Texas Legislature.
Flanked by Republican state senators, Patrick read a statement in Austin but took no questions.
"Under no circumstances should we have a complete pullout of the National Guard next month," Patrick said.
Patrick said they should stay as long law enforcement thinks is necessary. He said the state already has $12 million available to keep the Guard in the Rio Grande Valley through May.
Patrick said supplemental funding from the governor's office will cover the cost through August, the end of the fiscal year, but he did not specify how much.
He said then that "would allow the Legislature to make the decisions on keep the Guard there longer."
The Texas House and Senate would debate how much more or less is needed to also fund an undisclosed number of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers in the Valley.
"The long-term plan is to draw down the Guard and replace them with more DPS officers, but that will take time," Patrick said.
He said more DPS troopers will need to be hired and trained.
In announcing Operation Strong Safety last year, then-Gov. Rick Perry deployed 1,000 Texas National Guard to bolster DPS troopers also dispatched from across the state.
They were sent to the Valley last year after record numbers of Central Americans arrived at the border. Up until then, U.S. Border Patrol had reported a dramatic drop in apprehensions.
The cost of deploying the Texas Guard at the time was estimated at $1.3 million a week, more than $17 million a month.
Both Perry and now Patrick have said Texas taxpayers are bearing the cost because the federal government is not doing enough.
However, the U.S. Border Patrol in the Rio Grande Valley sector now number more than 3,100, according to an agency spokesman, plus additional technology and other resources.
Critics of what they call the militarization of the border said the reaction by the new leadership in Austin is not surprising.
Michael Seifert, a community organizer in Brownsville with the Equal Voice Network, said, "They're spending millions and millions of dollar to secure a place that's already secure, and the number was bumped up by children?"
Seifert said FBI crime statistics show that border cities like Brownsville are the safest in the Texas.
"It's always been like this," he said. "It's not like we had all these problems before the deployment."
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