Rick Perry sends Texas National Guard forces to border. What are their orders?

Texas Gov. Rick Perry aims to use the National Guard to help deal with border crime and a humanitarian crisis. But he's also turning up the heat on the Obama administration to improve border enforcement.

Eric Gay/AP
Gov. Rick Perry (c.), speaking to reporters in the governor's press room on Monday, announces that he is is deploying up to 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border. GOP state leaders say that criminals are exploiting a surge of children and families entering the US illegally.

Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, ordered up to 1,000 Texas National Guard forces to the border Monday. But what will these forces do, exactly?

President Obama maintains that the child-migrant crisis is not a border enforcement issue, hence he has rejected calls from Republicans – and the Texas governor – to send National Guard troops south. Children are turning themselves in to the border patrol, not running away from them, administration officials emphasize, though they allow that the border patrol is working overtime and has its hands full.

Governor Perry begs to differ with this characterization and points to border crime, in addition to the humanitarian crisis, as the reason for the ordered deployment. According to the governor and other state officials, the Texas guardsmen will:

• Support a recent surge of state Department of Public Safety law enforcement officers on the border, who are fighting crime by drug smugglers and human trafficking by cartels and gangs.

• Play a role of “deter and refer” – deter border crime by their visible presence along the border and refer illegal acts, including border crossings, to law enforcement. They don’t plan to apprehend illegal immigrants, though, technically, they could, said Texas Adjutant General John Nichols. 

• Assist with humanitarian needs of migrants who may approach them and ask to be taken to a Border Patrol station. The Guard will be equipped with water, most will have lifesaving skills, and they will call immediately for medical help.

When the president visited Texas on a fundraising trip two weeks ago, he met with Perry, who repeated his request for 1,000 National Guard troops, paid for by the federal government, to support the US Border Patrol until more patrol personnel can be trained and deployed.

In 2006, President George W. Bush deployed 6,000 National Guard troops to the border to shore up enforcement. In 2010, Mr. Obama deployed 1,200. What’s left is a small force of 300 Guard soldiers helping with night helicopter flights along the Texas-Mexico border. It’s seen as a successful program.

Absent action from Washington, the Texas governor – who is considered a possible presidential candidate for 2016 – is taking things into his own hands, using state money to support state law enforcement at the border. In 2010, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, a Democrat, deployed the National Guard to patrol the border after the murder of an Arizona rancher.

Texas officials said the deployment will cost about $12 million a month and will be paid for by the state. But eventually, they said, Texas will send the bill to the Obama administration, because they say the need for the deployment is because of lax border security – a federal responsibility.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, who is running for governor, told reporters that his office will continue to work “with Washington” on funding issues. He doesn’t expect litigation because he thinks the administration will “step up and do the right thing.” But he is preparing for legal action, if necessary.

“Texans are willing to put boots on the ground but we expect Washington to foot the bill,” he said.

When Obama met with Perry, he said that he would consider sending the Guard if that’s what it takes to pass his $3.7 billion request for emergency spending on the child-migrant crisis.

By promising to send Obama a bill for the Guard, Perry has just twisted the president's arm a bit tighter for a federal response – and thumped his own political chest in the process.

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