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Texas Sends National Guard Troops to Border, Despite Opposing Voices

Veronica Zaragovia/KUT
From left: Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, Gov. Rick Perry, Texas National Guard Maj. Gen. John Nichols and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst spoke at a press conference on border security on July 21, 2014 at the Texas State Capitol.

Gov. Rick Perry is sending National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border. He says the troops are needed, as the Border Patrol has been focusing on migrant children crossing the border illegally, and not criminal activity from drug and human traffickers.

Gov. Perry’s announcement comes a month after he directed the Legislature to spend millions of dollars increasing the number of Department of Public Safety officers near the border – a move Perry says it's working.

Due to the DPS surge ­– dubbed Operation Strong Safety – Perry says 36 percent fewer people have been apprehended in a three-week span. But the governor feels more needs to be done, which is why he's sending up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley. 

"These additional resources will help combat the brutal Mexican drug cartels that are preying up on our communities and also will help deter others before they have a chance to harm our citizens and become criminal aliens within our borders," Perry said at the State Capitol on Monday.

Maj. Gen. John Nichols with the Texas National Guard says the troops will be deployed over the next 30 days, and will support Texas DPS operations.

"We’re gonna prepare ourselves for a supporting role," Maj. Gen. Nichols says. "We support DPS, we support civil the National Guard. We’re your citizen soldiers and airmen. We’re you’re Texas brethren, we live next door to you, we work with you. In times of need we come to your aid."

Those additional DPS personnel were already costing the state $1.3 million a week. The Guard troops could cost up to $12 million a month. Many Republicans say they expect the federal government to pay back the state.

A number of Democrats are criticizing the Governor’s decision, including State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who says the border shouldn't be militarized.

"The reality is that we’re managing the situation in the Rio Grande Valley," Sen. Hinojosa says. "We have the churches, the charitable organizations, we have individuals volunteering to help clothe, feed, house and provide health checkups to these families. They’re not armed, they’re not carrying weapons. So the calling of the National Guard sends the wrong message."

Meanwhile, the White House says the number of unaccompanied minors crossing the border has been dropping.

President Barack Obama plans to meet Friday with the presidents of Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, where many of these children come from.

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