AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Gov. Rick Perry plans to use $38 million in emergency funds to begin the deployment of up to 1,000 National Guard troops along Texas’ border with Mexico, his office said.
Perry intends to use the Guardsmen to help law enforcement as a surge of people from Central America, including thousands of children, crosses into the United States. At an estimated cost of $12 million a month, the first round of funding should cover about three months.
Perry spokesman Rich Parsons told the San Antonio Express-News on Friday that the money will come from an unused fund for emergency radio infrastructure within the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Further funding could require the help of the Legislature, where some Democrats have criticized the use of Guardsmen at the border as wasteful.
“The governor will continue working with state leadership to secure additional funding from sources including the governor’s authority to respond to emergencies and disasters and budget execution,” Parsons told the newspaper.
More than 57,000 children have entered the United States since October, most of them from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. Many have surrendered immediately to waiting Border Patrol agents.
While the tide of immigrants appears to have slowed, Perry and other top state officials say they’re worried about high crime and a strain on existing federal resources at the border.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw testified at a state House committee hearing July 29 that the influx of children creates an opening for criminals.
“Kids aren’t criminals, but they’re being moved across by criminals – and those criminals are the cartels,” McCraw said.
DPS has also spent more than $5.8 million on what McCraw called an “operational surge” of helicopters, armed boats and police on the border.
Democrats at that hearing were skeptical that the money was being put to good use.
“Since we’re going to pay for it, and we’ve got to decide where it’s coming from … what are we purchasing?” said Rep. Sylvester Turner, a Houston Democrat. “And tell me, when will I know that this has been successful, when it has been worth the money that’s been spent?”
Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said Friday that he considered Perry’s use of emergency funding to be “an appropriate response.” A spokesman for House Speaker Joe Straus, R-San Antonio, said the speaker is ready to pursue more funding for the extra Guardsmen through the budget once more details about costs are available.