AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The top three leaders in state government, Gov. Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen, announced “stop-gap measures” to assist the Department of Homeland Security along the southern border.
Abbott said 1,000 more Texas National Guard troops will be sent to the border to complement the 1,000 troops that are already there. They will be sent to ports of entry to assist CBP, Abbott said, and act as security at new detention facilities in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.
Abbott said “single adults” will be held at these facilities while they wait for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to transport them. The Governor’s office tells KXAN the Federal government will pay for these operations up front but declined to detail how much money the operation would cost. KXAN reached out to find that out from the Department of Homeland Security but calls were not yet returned Friday evening.
“This effort is focused at reducing the humanitarian crisis at our border — on increasing border protection and security for our communities, and on expediting trade between the United States and Mexico,” Abbott said Friday afternoon.
Abbott said more than 45,000 individuals from 52 different countries have been apprehended illegally crossing the border into Texas in the past three weeks.
“Because of this massive influx of people coming into the country illegally, the personnel of the border patrol is overwhelmed. They need more assistance,” Abbott said, “Texas is stepping up and helping out.”
Abbott, Patrick and Bonnen called out Congress for failing to act on border policy.
While the move has drawn support from top Republican leaders in the state, it has drawn ire from some of Texas’ outspoken Democrats.
“Deploying more National Guard to the border is a fool’s errand and a waste of millions of taxpayer dollars, whether those dollars are federal or state,” State Sen. José Rodríguez, D- El Paso, said, “This latest action will not help to alleviate the humanitarian crisis at our southern border.”
State Rep. Poncho Nevárez, who chairs the House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety, said he agrees that Congress should be held responsible, but said Abbott’s action was overkill.
“I’m really disappointed,” Nevárez, a Democrat, said. He wondered who state leadership talked to along the stretch of the border that he represents in Del Rio and Eagle Pass.
Speaker of the Texas House Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, said the state has sent bills to the federal government to highlight the point that “they are costing Texas taxpayers’ dollars, but not meeting their constitutional responsibility of securing our border.”
“Shame on Congress if they won’t do their job, but we owe it to the people that elect us, just as they owe it to them, to do their jobs,” Bonnen explained. “Just because they won’t get their job done doesn’t mean we won’t do our job.”
Congressman Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat representing portions of Austin and San Antonio, said he did not see value in adding additional troops to border operations.
“We ought to be sending the public health service, the crisis that exists at the border is a humanitarian crisis,” Doggett said in a Friday interview after Abbott’s announcement.
Steffi Lee contributed to this report.