Why would you spend millions of dollars sending troops to the border who can't actually detain anyone? That's what some Texas sheriffs of border towns are asking in the wake of Gov. Rick Perry's plan to send 1,000 National Guards members to the Texas/Mexico border in the next month, according to the Dallas Morning News. For them, it would be more useful to spend the money on hiring more deputies and police, aka people who are allowed to detain migrants.
“I don’t know what good they can do,” Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio told the Dallas Morning News. “You just can’t come out here and be a police officer.” Lucio and other sheriffs said they weren't consulted before Perry's announcement and, in Lucio's opinion, the police and Border Patrol agents were handling the small uptick in crime. "At this time, a lot of people do things for political reasons. I don’t know that it helps,” Lucio said.
This isn't the first time people have questioned the wisdom of sending National Guard troops to the border. In 2010, President Obama sent over 1,000 troops to the border. They weren't allowed to pursue or detain immigrants, "or investigate crimes, make arrests, stop and search vehicles, or seize drugs," The Washington Post reported in 2011. "Nor do they check Mexico-bound vehicles for bulk cash or smuggled weapons headed to the drug cartels." Basically, they keep watch and radio in any suspicious activity. Critics also argued that the National Guard's help cost an estimated $6,271 per person caught.
But defenders of sending the guard argue they are a deterrent. In the upcoming deployment, guard officials said they would have some medical training and be supplied with water. Still, the most immediate reward is political, and as The New York Times noted, Perry stands the most to gain for being tough on the border.
In 2012, one of his major gaffes was calling people "heartless" for panning his plan to give undocumented students in-state tuition. This time around he won't make the same mistake. “Drug cartels, human traffickers and individual criminals are exploiting this tragedy for their own criminal opportunities,” Perry said Monday. “I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault, and little children from Central America are detained in squalor.”
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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