Can Texas Gov. Rick Perry Secure the Border All on His Own?

John Moore/Getty Images

John Moore/Getty Images

The entirety of the United States is currently hyper focused on the issue of immigration, an item that has long been in need of reform but has seen particular attention given the continued flow of unaccompanied minors crossing the border illegally, overtaxing an already taxed system. But while most politicians and Americans have vested interested in seeing reform, most don’t have the same degree of pressure that Governor Rick Perry of Texas (R) faces.

As of 2010, Slate reports that Texas had the third largest population of illegal immigrants, just under Nevada and California with 6.7 percent of its population made up of illegal immigrants. Beyond that, a press release from Rick Perry’s Office of the Governor reports that, “Since 2008, more than 203,000 criminal aliens have been booked into Texas county jails,” with 3,000 of the 640,000 crimes homicides and 8,000 sexual assaults.

As one of four U.S. states bordering Mexico it makes sense that Texas would have a particularly big stock in controlling the onslaught of immigrants, and it also follows logically that, given the gridlock in Congress, Governor Perry would focus on the border. According to the Governor’s press release, Perry has ordered John Nichols, adjutant general of Texas, to send 1,000 of the National Guard to the border where they will aid the Texas Department of Public Safety, a move he told ABC was requested long ago. “Messages have been sent now for multiple years. In 2010, I asked for the president to put 1,000 National Guard troops in place along the border to secure the border so that we could train up 3,000 border patrol agents to augment and to permanently secure that border.”

But secure the border in what way? At present, the major influx we’re dealing with has to do with large groups of children being caught at the border, creating a great deal of legal and processing work for the U.S. — something increased border patrol wouldn’t change. “Unaccompanied children only make up 20 percent of those apprehended crossing the border illegally,” said Perry.

This is a number that is perhaps of some merit, maybe even a generous estimate given that last year 356,00 immigrants were caught crossing the border from Mexico, according to The Washington Post, and 2013 saw around 38,759 children caught, according to The Wall Street Journal. That’s considerably below 20 percent, and even if you consider that the number of children this year has jumped and the number of immigrants may have dropped in total, his point still stands. That said, it’s hardly the case that 80 percent of illegal immigrants are dangerous criminals wreaking havoc on the border, either. In a CNN report, he voices concern that “humanitarian aid” is distracting security personnel from other problems. “Drug cartels, human traffickers, individual criminals are exploiting this tragedy for their own criminal opportunities,” said Perry.

Many, including David Aguilar, acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection bureau, say more manpower isn’t the answer we need. “The real solution to basically helping border patrol is going to be a holistic approach to this that goes way beyond more boots on the ground,” said Aguilar to CNN.

Perry is a bit more optimistic on the effectiveness of increased troops. “We’ve been staunching this flow in sectors. We’ve been able to shut down illegal activities in certain sectors with our different operations that we’ve had. But I think there’s a point in time where you say, you know what, this 12,000 miles border has to be secured and if there is a people, and if there is a place, that it can happen, it will be Texas,” said Perry in an interview with Glenn Beck. Still, the need for federal support beyond state action is one that he has discussed, saying also that Texas has been “hoping against hope frankly that the federal government’s gonna be a partner in this.” He hits especially hard on President Barack Obama, criticizing him for his failure to act sooner in the harshest possible terms.

It’s notable that Congress is headed for a five-week absence before July ends and that neither party is particularly confidence of passing a bill to aid the situation with unaccompanied minors. In the Senate, there was a bill put out on Wednesday, Democrat in origin, which would give 2.7 billion toward helping end the crisis. Republicans in both Houses argue that the bill is unacceptable, as it provides money without outlining any immigration reform. “We aren’t going to hand the president billions of dollars without policy changes to help fix the problem at the border,” said Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-Ohio) on the proposed bill — according to The New York Times.

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