The number of Texas National Guard troops heading to the U.S.-Mexico border is rising. Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Thursday that he would raise the deployment to 1,400 troops.
“They will be involved in a multitude of tasks that will ensure that the Border Patrol officers will have the time and the ability to be more fully engaged,” Abbott said.
“Texas appreciates all the assets that the federal government is bringing to the border,” the governor said at a news conference. “Because that is the federal government’s job.”
But there is debate over whether sending troops will be effective in preventing illegal immigration.
“Will that have an effect on the number of crossings?” asks Will Weissert, Austin Bureau Chief for The Associated Press. “We’ll have to wait and see.” But Weissert believes a lot of people have already made up their minds.
“I feel pretty confident that Trump is going to declare victory no matter what happens,” Weissert said. “But those on the other side will say it’s just an exercise in show.”
The deployment is also raising new concerns for communities along the border. Joy Diaz, producer for the Texas Standard on KUT Public Radio, said the increased presence of uniformed personnel can make citizens uneasy.
“Sometimes people talk about militarization of the border,” Diaz said. She said this goes beyond that, with the combination of troops and the continued presence of additional Department of Public Safety Troopers on the border.
“It doesn’t matter who the person is,” Diaz explained. “What you see is a person in uniform, and therefore that does something to the psyche of this community.”
However, Diaz said that having troops can help the economy along the border.
“They’re renting vehicles so that’s money coming into the communities. When they arrive there, they have to use hotels,” Diaz said.
Details on the cost of the operation are still unknown.
Lawsuit could open voter registration options
Beth Stevens, director of the Voting Rights Program at the Texas Civil Rights Project, or TCRP, said thousands of voters complained about not being able to vote when they renewed their driver’s license online.
The TCRP filed a lawsuit that U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia agreed with. His ruling found that Texas violated the National Voter Registration Act, also known as the Motor Voter Act.
Stevens says an option is to have Texas implement an online voter registration process for people using the DPS online system.
“It’s not kind of the full online voter registration,” Stevens said, explaining that the lawsuit focused on the people who change their address online with DPS.
Current Texas law requires submitting a written, signed request to change a voter’s address, if that voter moves to a new county. Stevens says that provision violates federal law.
“It is the duty of federal, state and local governments to help folks get registered to vote and this is the act that they implemented after that finding,” Stevens said.
Judge Garcia is issuing a remedy on what Texas needs to do to comply with the law. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has signaled that the state will appeal the ruling.