Thursday Interview: The Political Calculus – National Guard Troops on the Texas Border

The U.S. Congress is wrestling with competing visions on border security, including the possibility of a federal deployment of the National Guard to the border.

But in Texas, where political angst over border security is a water cooler issue, the National Guard is deploying on the Texas-Mexico border for the third time since 2006.

President George W. Bush sent the National Guard to four border states that year. Four years later, President Obama extended that deployment.

And now as lawmakers quarrel in Washington, political and law enforcement leaders along the Texas border with Mexico say they are not happy about Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s decision to send 1,000 National Guard troops to South Texas, saying border counties need local law enforcement and financial aid, not more troops from outside the area.

Fronteras Desk reporter Lorne Matalon and Marfa Public Radio/West Texas Public Radio anchor and reporter Travis Bubenik speak with two keen observers of Texas and national politics about Perry’s calculus.

They’re Jim Henson, director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas at Austin and Ross Ramsey, executive editor and co-founder of the Texas Tribune.

Henson is a highly respected pollster and his latest, conducted just prior to the stream of Central Americans entering the United States became part of a national conversation, suggests that Texans want tighter immigration laws.

Ramsey wrote an article entitled Analysis: A Border Plan-and a Political One for the Texas Tribune as Perry revealed his plans.

The article details the political considerations Perry has made in preparation for an expected second attempt to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, this time for the 2016.​

Perry describes his decision as necessary to help U.S. Border Patrol agents overwhelmed by a stream unaccompanied children from Central America. Yet both both the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the National Guard in Texas told a special legislative committee in the Texas capital of Austin that neither agency requested the deployment, though both are publicly supportive of Perry’s move.

The governor strongly implied that border security is a patchwork affair and that drug cartels and human traffickers might become a pronounced force in an area where, he says, their crimes have already altered how people live on the border.

Here’s a quote from Perry, who is reportedly considering another run for the Republican Party’s nomination for president in 2016.

“Thousands of lives have been impacted forever. All because of the federal government’s lip service and empty promises,” he said.

This conversation was produced by Lorne Matalon and Travis Bubenik, in collaboration with Fronteras, The Changing America Desk, a consortium of NPR member stations in the Southwest.

This conversation was produced by Lorne Matalon and Travis Bubenik, in collaboration with Fronteras, The Changing America Desk, a consortium of NPR member stations in the Southwest.

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