Rick Perry’s National Guard Deployment Even More Pointless Than It First Appeared
The head of the Texas National Guard conceded to reporters that those 1,000 troops that Governor Perry ordered to the border earlier this week are basically going to do nothing but sit around and watch:
McALLEN, Texas (AP) — Most of the 1,000 National Guard troops headed to the Texas-Mexico border will take up observational positions and detain people only if they interfere with their mission, a top general over the deployment said Tuesday.
Texas Adjutant General John Nichols said the troops will help deter illicit traffic while U.S. Border Patrol agents deal with a record spike of unaccompanied minors entering the country. The Texas National Guard troops are headed to border on the orders of Republican Gov. Rick Perry, who has been a chief critic of the White House response to the crisis and is considering another run for president in 2016.
Nichols said troops will be armed for their safety, but when asked if their weapons would be loaded would say only that ammunition would be in magazines.
“That’s about as far as I want to go because if the cartel folks understand what we can and can’t do then they may take advantage of that,” Nichols told The Associated Press.
Nichols said troops will deploy to the Rio Grande Valley in the next few weeks and that no end date for the operation has been set.
The deployment will cost Texas an estimated $12 million a month — on top of an extra $1.3 million a week the state has recently been giving its Department of Public Safety to ramp up operations along the border.
Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers have entered the U.S. illegally — more than double compared with the same period a year earlier. Most have been from Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador, where rampant gang violence and intense poverty have driven tens of thousands of people outside their borders.
More than 3,000 Border Patrol agents currently work in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, and Perry had repeatedly asked President Barack Obama to send the National Guard to the border amid the influx.
Perry’s order has drawn backlash from Democrats and even some local sheriffs and police chiefs in counties along the Texas border. They call the deployment an ill-conceived militarization and have questioned assertions by Perry and other Republicans who say criminals are exploiting the surge while the Border Patrol is overwhelmed taking in children.
What this means, of course, is that Perry’s call up order is even more utterly pointless than I initially thought it was. At the time, the announcement made it sound as if the Guard would be assisting and supplementing the duties of the Border Patrol at the border, both in connection with the processing of the Central American migrants that are the center of the current border crisis and with intercepting people just crossing the border illegally generally. If that had been there mission, then perhaps they might have actually served a useful, if limited, purpose. Instead, all they are basically going to be doing is sitting at the border and, well, looking at it. I assume that if someone happens to try to come across the border at the positions the Guard members are deployed to, they will end up turning them over to the Border Patrol rather than simply letting them pass by without doing anything. One would hope that they’d at least be doing that much, actually, because otherwise their presence on the border would be even more utterly pointless. What they won’t be doing, apparently, is engaging in any kind of patrols, either on their own or with the Border Patrol, or otherwise engaging in any activities that are actually designed to, well, secure the border, which is what one would have assumed was the actual point of Perry’s decision to call them up to begin with.
What this confirms, of course, is what the real purpose of Perry’s order, and indeed his entire spectacle of involvement in the ongoing border crisis, is actually all about. It’s not about actually solving the problems connected with the massive influx of Central American migrants this year. If it were, then Perry would be working with the members of his state’s Congressional delegation, such as Senator John Cornyn and Congressman Henry Cuellar, who have proposed a bill to deal with the crisis, toward a solution. Instead of attacking the President, he would be working with the Federal Government to ensure that the people who have arrived in his state are treated humanely and processed properly according to applicable law. In other words, he’d be acting like a Governor, which is what he’s supposed to be doing of course.Instead, from the beginning Perry has used this crisis as a political cudgel against the Administration and a means to advance his own political fortunes. He’s grandstanding with photo ops with Sean Hannity at the border. And, he’s generally just pontificating. In other words, he’s using this issue to try to reboot a political career that was seriously damaged thanks to a disastrous 2012 campaign for President rather than actually doing anything constructive. If he does end up running in 2016, the question will be whether Republican voters are foolish enough to fall for such transparent pandering.