WESLACO, Texas - Gov. Greg Abbott received a border security briefing Thursday and met with Texas National Guard troops who will be involved in fighting illegal immigration and drug trafficking in the Rio Grande Valley region.
Abbott said the troops will help the U.S. Border Patrol by providing surveillance and will not be involved in the apprehension or confrontation process.
"This operation is necessary in order to deal with an escalation of border traffic," Abbott said. "We want to shut down the cartels, gang and smugglers who move drugs into the U.S."
The governor said 762 National Guard members have been called up and troops will be increased by 300 a week until it reaches about 1,400, an increase from 1,000 that Abbott pledged Friday.
"Morale among the troops is very high." he said. "We are very grateful for the National Guard to be a part of this process."
The troop pledges are in response to President Donald Trump's plan to use the military to help fight cross-border crime.
Abbott said there has been an increase of about 200 percent of people coming across the border without authority, more than 200 percent of heroin coming across the border and an increase of more than 200 percent of MS-13 gang members crossing the border.
"This cross-border activity is causing serious threats and dangers, not just to people in the border region, but people throughout the state of Texas, as well as throughout the United States," he said. "It is our responsibility on behalf of fellow Americans that we stop those MS-13 gang members before they get across the border."
Abbott said there has been increase in stash houses and out-of-control vehicles transporting drugs in the Rio Grande Valley that are leading law enforcement in chases along the border.
"It imperils Texans and Americans who are driving down the road having their safety compromised because of the lawlessness caused by the cross-border drug trade," he said.
Abbott shook hands with National Guard members after his press briefing.
The two Democratic candidates for governor, former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez and Mark White, issued the following statements regarding border security.
Lupe Valdez's statement:
"I've spent a 42-year career in law enforcement investigating drug traffickers and protecting Americans at home and abroad. I understand law enforcement and can tell you a 'boys and their toys' approach to border security doesn't work. What we need to do is get smart about border security so that we can keep our communities safe and their economies thriving. This approach from Governor Abbott and his allies simply isn't that.
With illegal border crossings at new lows, what we need is to put investment into what works, and provide the resources and innovation to the people who truly understand the border.
Rather than looking for smart solutions, Governor Abbott is simply appeasing Trump's fear based and ill-conceived approach as he disregards the wellbeing of Texas. Now more than ever, we need a governor who will prioritize smart solutions, instead of standing by as our border communities are harmed by actions disconnected from reality."
Andrew White's statement:
"I believe in a secure border. I also believe in effective policies for legal immigration. I know there’s a way to be rigorous and compassionate. And, because I’ve owned a border security business for 20 years, I understand the challenges of this issue.
Our weak borders have read like a 1,254-mile-long "Open for Business" sign to millions of undocumented immigrants and the criminals who take advantage of them. Illegal immigration violates our laws and our sovereignty. Weak borders create a dangerous situation for women, children and men who try to cross into our state. These unfortunate people are often victimized by criminals. I’ve seen their bodies lying lifeless in south Texas fields. For the sake of all of us who believe in law and safety, we must be smart on border security.
We must also be compassionate. It is nothing short of inhuman to throw a DREAM Act child out of our country or to leave them parentless by deporting their family. Period.
We need a path to citizenship for hard working, law-abiding people. We stand beside one another in the grocery store line or at the ballpark. Our kids go to school together. We've been a part of the same country for decades. We want them to graduate from college here, join our military here, invest in a home or business here, and pay taxes here. We shouldn’t punish them now for our country’s inadequate leadership.
Trump says, “Let’s build a wall” while Gov. Abbott spends $800 million in state money to pay for federal border security. Is this the only way left to secure our border? Surely there is a better way.
Border protection is not simple, but it’s possible. Building a golf course along the border? Maybe I’d ask Trump."
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