On Border Crisis, Rick Perry Decisively Leads Texas – and Troops – in the Wrong Direction

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On Monday, Governor Perry announced his plan to address the humanitarian crisis at the border: send 1,000 National Guard troops as a “force multiplier” for the overwhelmed DPS.

Perry assured those listening that undocumented children and their families made up only a small percentage of those currently coming across the border, and that the vast majority were criminals taking advantage of our overwhelmed border security agents.

Despite the fact that local sheriffs and law enforcement officers from the border region do not support this move, Perry assured the state that he was acting in their best interest. He also spent little to no time discussing the plight of the tens of thousands of refugees who have crossed into Texas fleeing violence in their home countries. Perhaps sensing that sending armed troops to the border to face off against children could be seen as unpopular, each of the men who spoke at the press conference were quick to touch on their concern for these children before moving on to explain how sending National Guard troops to the border had nothing to do with them, and everything to do with crime.

Head below the jump to find out why folks are calling Perry's decision wrong.Along with local law enforcement officers along the border, who point out that because of limitations placed on what the National Guard troops can actually do once they arrive, many border representatives and Texas legislators have come out strongly against Perry's decision:

Senator Jose Rodriguez pointed out that National Guard troops are not a sensible solution to what is, in essence, a humanitarian crisis. Like many others, Rodriguez accuses Perry of politicizing the suffering of those coming into our country, saying:

Attempting to militarize the border with a surge of National Guard troops and DPS officers of this magnitude is an absurd reaction to a refugee crisis. The proposal by Governor Perry reeks of politics over policy with the undeniable consequence of further straining limited resources that are absolutely critical for transportation, infrastructure, and health care needs, especially in rural areas along the border.

Rodriguez is exactly right: not only is this a highly visible but incredibly ineffective move in terms of addressing the causes of the surge, but it will also draw funds away from important social services that people across the state – including those Perry claims he wants to protect from crime in the border region – rely on. Though he may score political points for his lip service to protecting citizens along the border, reducing funding for programs such as healthcare and infrastructure could leave residents in the Rio Grande Valley at a greater disadvantage than before.

He also takes issue with the implications of needing to send troops to the border. This plays into a continual – and entirely false – narrative that paints the border as a dangerous and unstable place, when in reality cities like El Paso have become safer than many places farther away from the border. Senator Rodriguez explains:

This proposal sends the wrong message and perpetuates the myth that the Texas border region is a war zone, dangerous to visit, bad for business, and unhospitable to live. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our border communities have shown tremendous courage, generosity, and American spirit in addressing the unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence of Central America and seeking refuge in our country.

Not only is Perry's decision to send troops to the border going to pull important funding from other programs, it also reinforces misconceptions about the border that will cause the economies in this region to suffer. Those who understand the border, such as Senator Van de Putte, understand a need for security, but know that it must reflect the needs of those who are already engaged in protecting our state:  

As a sixth-generation Texan whose family has lived along the border, with extensive relationships with border law enforcement, faith and community leaders in the Rio Grande Valley for decades, I believe Governor Perry's decision is the wrong way to go.

Instead of ignoring local leaders and acting unilaterally, Washington D.C. and Austin should act responsibly. To keep Texans safe, we should support our local and state law enforcement and first responders with the resources that they request and need.

Rick Perry is out of touch with what those working on the ground at the border truly need, and he clearly has not thought through the unintentional impact this multiplication of force could have on those who already live in this region of our state. By pulling important funds away from critical social programs, reaffirming the damaging myth that our border towns are unstable and unsafe, and placing political expedience above the expressed needs of our border law enforcement, Perry has certainly taken a decisive step. Unfortunately for Texans and for all of the children hoping for safety once they cross our border, it was in the wrong direction.  

About Author

Genevieve Cato

Genevieve Cato is a feminist activist and a native Texan. While not writing for the Burnt Orange Report, she can be found working for State Rep. Mary Gonzalez under the pink dome, serving as a community member of the Communications Committee for the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, and drinking copious amounts of pretentious local craft beers.

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