WESCALO, Tx. — Texas governor Greg Abbott was briefed on border security Thursday by military leaders at the Texas-Mexico border.
That’s when he announced he would send at least 1,400 National Guard to the border with Mexico, citing an increase in undocumented immigrant arrests.
Governor Abbott gave a final send-off to over one hundred men and women in uniform at the Weslaco armory like he did when launching ‘Operation Strong Safety’ in 2015.
It’s the latest group of soldiers preparing for a surveillance and reporting mission along the banks of the Rio Grande where there’s already 762 of them watching for any smuggling activity from the other side.
The governor’s goal is to increase that number to at least 1,400 troops with weekly deployments of 300. It’s the most he and his predecessor Rick Perry had ever deployed to the southern border.
“The reason why the National Guard was called up has to do with this ongoing increase in cross-border activity,” said Abbott.
The increase Abbott refers to is a 203% rise in Border Patrol apprehensions in March compared to the same time in 2017 when arrests were at a historical low.
“If you look at all the years going back a decade,” said Abbott. “You will see a rise that we’re dealing with right now is at a substantially high level.”
This is where the governor is wrong.
According to Border Patrol statistics of total southwest border apprehensions from 1960-2017, the levels reported now are comparable to those in the 70’s. Looking back a decade, there were nearly twice the amount of arrests than in the past three years.
Democratic congressman Vicente Gonzalez, whose district includes border communities, has criticized the deployment of troops from the start.
“I think it is political grandstanding at the cost of taxpayer dollars,” said Gonzalez. “I think it’s the wrong message to send locally, nationally and to our neighbors south of our border.”
Instead, Gonzalez proposes to use the federal dollars to hire more Border Patrol agents and buy them more advanced equipment.
Pro-immigrant organizations on the border said the governor has the wrong focus.
“Unfortunately our leadership in Texas has led on this idea of responding militarily to something that’s a humanitarian situation,” said La Union Del Pueblo Entero spokesman John-Michael Torres.
The governor said the sharp increase in MS-13 gang members and heroin should be reasons enough to deploy the National Guard; a move that cost the Bush and the Obama administration a combined $1.3 billion during their deployments from 2006-2008 and 2010-2011 respectively.
No estimates have been made for the cost of this round of deployments, or a time frame to keep troops at the border.