Texas Governor Rick Perry continues push for increased border security, immigration reform with editorial
AUSTIN, Texas, June 25, 2014 — Texas Governor Rick Perry continues his push for increased border security and immigration reform with an editorial press release.
On June 23, Senator Ted Cruz, Rep. Mike Burgess, and Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott toured the illegal immigration processing and detention facilities at Lackland Air Force Base, among other locations. Meanwhile, Perry toured other locations including the McAllen detention facility. These facilities house children, minors who made the trek north, illegally crossing the US-Mexico border into Texas. Many of these children made the crossing without adult family members. Some did so without the aid of human traffickers, known as coyotes. Others enlisted coyotes who are known to abuse illegal immigrants, using many as mules to courier illicit drugs or indenturing them into slavery. In the cases of minors, that slavery is often illicit sex trade.
Of the over 160,000 illegal immigrants, captured in the Rio Grande River Valley region of Texas so far this fiscal year, more than 37,000 are children under 18 years of age. The US Border Patrol has detained more than 66, 000 minors this fiscal year, dispersed among Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. Many of these children come from countries with poor healthcare systems that lack immunizations and facilities for the prevention and treatment of childhood diseases such as rubella, measles and chicken pox. This lead Perry to say:
The staggering rise in the number of individuals crossing the U.S. border illegally represents a profound and major threat to the safety and security of our state and our country. “The federal government needs to act decisively and quickly to end this influx, and ease this suffering.Upon learning the health and welfare status of many of these minors, Perry, the Texas Speaker of the House, and Lt. Governor David Dewhurst enacted an emergency order allocating $1.3 million a week to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS). That order directed DPS to conduct “surge operations” along the Texas-Mexico border concentrating on arresting or deterring coyote, sex slaver, and drug cartel operations along the border. Manpower and equipment is reportedly required for these operations as rumors circulate alleging that cartel enlist local Mexican Army units who cross the border and fire upon US Citizens.
On June 20, Perry sent the following letter to Barack Obama:
Perry’s tour of the detention facilities prompted the governor to write the following op-ed. His impressions and observations merit quoting the editorial in full:
The first thing I saw was a boy crying. Terrified and sobbing against the window of the holding cell, he couldn’t have been more than 12 or 13. The room was full of other young boys, their curious eyes peering out at us as we walked by. These were the ones who made the trip alone.While the conditions, dispositions, health and welfare of these children remain a priority humanitarian concern at both a federal and state level, politicians debate the causes and future courses of action to halt the flood of children across the border. While many contend the debate resides along party lines, individual such as Rep. Henry Cuellar have made statements critical of the Obama Administration’s foreign policy, blaming poor messaging from the executive branch for the current situation. Most of the disagreement resides in what actions to take with those children already in the US. Many feel all the children should be deported. Others feel the actions should be in line with the policies perceived by those in the originating countries — only felons and criminals will be deported. Regardless, the burden of the costs for caring and housing those here already rests on the shoulders of hard-working American taxpayers.
The room next door was filled to overflowing with mothers and children, some covered in foil blankets, lying on the cement floor. The next room over, empty, except for the garbage that was being swept away in preparation for its next wave of occupants.
When we stepped outside, I heard a baby wailing over the hum of the industrial fans and the steady words of the federal official giving the tour. The sheer number of people in such a small space made it difficult to quickly pinpoint the source, but I finally spotted the baby being held by a young mother in the quarantine area taped off in the back. The otherwise quiet crowd simply stared back at us. The very real human consequences of our country’s lax border security and muddled immigration policies huddled right there, under an open shelter in the stifling Texas heat.
This is the McAllen border patrol detention facility, where men, women and children of all ages who have illegally entered the U.S. are detained and processed. Some are caught attempting to cross the border, while some give themselves over willingly. Many are children from Central America traveling alone, who have paid coyotes to smuggle them through Mexico or made the trip on the tops of freight trains. All have quite literally risked their lives to set foot in our country.
It’s impossible to see these children without wondering how many more were lost somewhere along the way. The desert’s a dangerous place to begin with, even before the worst of summer’s brutal heat arrives, and the border is trafficked by treacherous individuals who see fellow humans as an expendable means to turn a dollar.
What’s happening along our southern border is a mounting tragedy, its root cause Washington’s failure, diplomatically and strategically, to address our border security and illegal immigration problem.
To be clear, the federal officials who operate these facilities daily are doing the best they can with what they have, trying desperately to keep up with a seemingly unending tide of immigrants coming to our border because they’ve heard current U.S. policy will quickly reunite them with loved ones in our country.
This is a complex situation and a growing humanitarian crisis that will require a multifaceted solution. But it’s a situation I fear our president will continue to brush off until he has seen it first-hand.
The U.S. needs to act decisively. First off, the federal government needs to make it crystal clear that attempting to cross our border illegally simply isn’t worth the considerable risk. People in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and elsewhere who are considering making the trip need to know that they will be immediately sent back to their country of origin when they’re detained, not sent to various locations across the United States or placed in the care of loved ones.
Secondly, the United States government needs to send more resources to finally, once and for all, secure the border. Federal engagement was insufficient to begin with, and the crush of illegal entrants is draining what resources they had in the area. These gaping holes are just waiting to be exploited by drug cartels and transnational gangs, and create a national security issue as they could be used by people from countries with known terrorist affiliations.
That’s why Texas has directed the state’s Department of Public Safety to amplify its law enforcement operations along the border, targeting the criminals seeking to take advantage of this humanitarian crisis.
This is a problem, however, beyond the scope of just one state. We’ll do what we can, but it’s up to Washington to move quickly to ease the suffering I witnessed Monday afternoon, suffering that is mirrored in federal facilities across the border states.
Until they step up to the task, that suffering will continue, as will the tragedies we don’t even know about taking place on both sides of this unsecured border.