Texas to spend $1.3 million a week for more security along border
EL PASO, TX — Undocumented immigrants from several countries in Central America, many of them children, continue to arrive in the Rio Grande Valley in droves.
Since October, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (USCBP) apprehended some 34,000 unaccompanied minors in that area, and officials expect a total of 90,000 kids to arrive there by the end of this calendar year - a big jump from 2013.
"It just speaks to the level of crisis that we're seeing on the Southwest border," said Stu Harris, Vice President for the AFGE Local 1929 National Border Patrol Council.
The state of Texas is now taking matters into its own hands because state leaders argue Washington isn't doing anything to fix the problem.
In a letter sent to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) on Wednesday, Governor Rick Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and Speaker Joe Straus ordered DPS to increase patrols along the Texas-Mexico border - a plan that will cost $1.3 million a week.
"Instead of spending money on the DPS doing surges in border security enforcement, that money ought to be spent on the children, on providing humanitarian assistance to those children," said State Senator Jose Rodriguez.
Rodriguez argues the unaccompanied minors aren't a security threat.
"They're coming here because they're fleeing the violence in their countries," he said.
But Harris argues otherwise.
"Unaccompanied minors or juveniles traveling with a mother, a lot of the time, we are seeing in some cases teenagers that are gang-affiliated," he said.
Harris says Border Patrol predicted this influx of illegal immigration when sequestration and budget cuts slashed their force.
"I mean it's no surprise to us. It's pretty obvious that when you take agents out of the field, and have talk of amnesty and immigration reform, that people are going to come," he said.
DPS released a statement on Thursday saying in part they will "…increase the number of law enforcement personnel along the border as well as provide overtime funding for state and local law enforcement. We will also work with our local, state and federal partners on land, air and maritime operations on a 24/7 basis to deter and disrupt drug and human trafficking, and other border-related crimes."
DPS would not reveal any more details about the border security plan, like when it will take effect, but state leaders say the increased security is supposed to continue at least through the end of this year.