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Border Surge Could Continue Through August

Julián Aguilar/Texas Tribune

The surge of state law enforcement on Texas’ southern border will continue through August if a request made by the state’s top leaders is approved next month by budget writers. 

Gov. Rick Perry announced Tuesday that he, House Speaker Joe Straus and Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst had reached an agreement that will cost about $86 million. If approved by the Legislative Budget Board, that spending will not need a green light from incoming lawmakers, who are set to gavel in in January.

The state’s deployment began in June as a response the crush of undocumented immigrants from Central America seeking illegal entry into Texas through the Rio Grande Valley. The state’s leadership said at the time that the law enforcement build-up  — which including Department of Public Safety troopers, and later, the Texas National Guard — was to prevent transnational gangs and human smugglers from taking advantage of U.S. Border Patrol agents who were overwhelmed with the influx of immigrants and unable to concentrate on their duties.

The latest proposal will extend the current border security initiative beyond the Rio Grande Valley to other parts of the border. Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said due to operational and security concerns, the governor's office could not say where specifically the additional resources will go. But she added that various mobile units will be deployed wherever the need arises.

The $86 million will go toward expanded shifts for Texas Department of Public Safety officers that will equal about 650 full-time positions. It will also go toward new technology and patrol boats, additional Texas National Guard troops, and Texas Parks and Wildlife agents.

“Texas has proven beyond any doubt that this border can be secured, even if the federal government refuses to take the steps necessary to do so as required by the Constitution,” Perry said in a statement. “This agreement will ensure the hardworking men and women from DPS, the Texas National Guard and Texas Parks and Wildlife, who have been working with local and federal partners, have the resources they need to maintain a robust law enforcement presence along the border until the Legislature can act.”

Perry said in the statement that the funding will include: $13.7 million from the state’s disaster funds; $47.9 from the Texas Department of Transportation's general revenue bond fund; $7 million from the state's Emerging Technology Fund; and $17.5 million from the Texas Public Finance Authority.

Dewhurst said in an interview that there was a need to act before the Legislature convenes in January to be assured of the surge’s continued success.

“The reason to continue the border surge through the end of the fiscal year, which is Aug. 31, is because some of the newly elected officials may not be focusing on the fact that it's undoubtedly impossible to get a two-thirds vote in both chambers to continue it,” he said. “And once you don't get a two-thirds vote for immediate effect, the surge will stop, we'll have business as usual for the cartels and the $850 to $900 million that we just spent will be all for nothing.”

While the initial DPS surge saw mild resistance from some border leaders, the deployment of the Texas National Guard was met with heavy criticism by area economic leaders and elected officials. They saw it as a “militarization” that was an affront to border cities and sent the wrong message to Mexico. 

Reporter Alexa Ura contributed to this report. 

Julian Aguilar covered the 81st legislative session for the Rio Grande Guardian. Previously, he reported from the border for the Laredo Morning Times. A native of El Paso, he has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of Texas and a master's degree in journalism from the Frank W. Mayborn Graduate Institute of Journalism at the University of North Texas.