Rick Perry Sending National Guard To The Border For Reasons Even He Isn’t Sure Of

Rick Perry is sending 1,000 members of the Texas National Guard to the border for no apparent reason.

Texas Goveronor Perry activates National Guard for border security

After about two weeks in which he made a show of calling on President Obama to send the National Guard to the Texas-Mexico border despite the fact that President Obama is not the Commander in Chief of the Texas National Guard, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced yesterday that he was sending 1,000 members of the National Guard to the border in response to the border crisis:

Texas Gov. Rick Perry announced plans Monday to send up to 1,000 of his state’s National Guard troops to the Mexican border within 30 days, saying that the Obama administration has not kept Texas secure.

Perry (R) said the troops will be integrated into a state law enforcement program called Operation Strong Safety, which is aimed at preventing criminal activity by Mexican drug cartels on the Texas side of the border. The move is necessary, he said, because the U.S. Border Patrol has been overwhelmed by a surge of unaccompanied minors who have entered the country illegally.

“I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault and little children from Central America are detained in squalor,” Perry said at a news conference in Austin.

The governor’s aides said the National Guard will work with state troopers at observation posts. The guardsmen will not be empowered to apprehend anyone but rather will help identify potential criminal activity and alert law enforcement officers.

Perry did not outline any role for them in dealing with the unaccompanied children at the border; more than 57,000 of them have been apprehended by federal agents since October. The Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for caring for the children.

Illegal immigrants arrested by state troopers will be turned over to the Border Patrol, the governor’s aides said.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest suggested that Perry’s move is symbolic and urged him to offer public support for President Obama’s funding request. He chided the governor for not providing “the kinds of communication that you’d ordinarily see from a governor when they want to make a deployment like this.”

The White House “would hope that any additional resources that are added to the border would be integrated and coordinated with the significant ongoing efforts that are already in place,” Earnest said.

Perry’s call to send the Guard to the border was one that many on the right picked up on and ran with when he made it for the first time earlier this month, but its never been clear exactly what the National Guard is supposed to accomplish, and that’s even less clear given the small number of troops being deployed in this situation. After all, the border crisis we’re dealing with right now, while large in number, is not one that involves large numbers of people trying to sneak over the border illegally without detection. If that were the case, then perhaps one could make an argument that augmenting the Border Patrol with National Guard troops could serve as a deterant to such surreptitious crossings. We’re not seeing that in this case, though. The Central American migrants we’re talking about here are either presenting themselves at a border crossing station or, when they are encountered by law enforcement, turning themselves in. They aren’t really making any effort to prevent themselves from being caught, in part because they believe that they’ll get some kind of asylum. Given that, I’m not sure what purpose this deployment is going to serve, other than the obvious political one.

Based on an interview that Greg Sargent conducted last week, the man who headed the Texas National Guard under George W. Bush seems to have similar doubts:

[I]n an interview today, the head of the National Guard under George W. Bush said he had not yet heard a clear rationale for sending in the Guard and suggested it might not be the appropriate response to the problems at the core of the current crisis, though he did say he could envision the Guard playing some sort of part in a broader solution.

“Until mission requirements are clearly defined, it can’t be determined whether this is an appropriate use of the Guard in this particular case,” H. Steven Blum, who was the Chief of the National Guard Bureau from 2003 to 2009 and has been a career military man for decades, told me. “There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you’re talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I’m not so sure that what we’re dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice.”

But it’s unclear whether the current crisis demands similar solutions. According to the Arizona Republic, the debacle is occurring almost entirely at a single border sector — the Rio Grande sector — calling into question claims that the crisis shows broad chaos all along the border. The causes range from violence in Central America to human traffickers exploiting mis-perceptions of U.S. law to the accurate perception that legal processes allow kids to disappear into this country while awaiting a court date. Indeed, Republicans themselves have premised their evolving legislative response largely on the idea that a chief cause is holes in the 2008 trafficking law, which is why they are calling for changes to it that would make faster removals possible. (Obama is open to similar changes.)

But if that is the cause of the problem, it’s unclear what sending in the Guard would accomplish. The call for the Guard to provide humanitarian relief is also puzzling, given that Republicans themselves are criticizing the parts of Obama’s request for funding that would provide humanitarian relief.


[E]ven Perry has struggled to articulate what the Guard should do in this case. When Brit Hume recently pointed out to Perry that kids are merely turning themselves over to law enforcement already, and asked how the Guard would change this, Perry argued that the “visual” showing them at the border might serve as a deterrent.

The main reason that Perry can’t come up with an articuable mission for these troops, in addition to his own inability to often be articulate, is because there clearly isn’t one. Just as with his call over the previous two weeks for the President to bring the National Guard to the border, even though it is Perry himself who has the authority to activate the Guard, this deployment is largely meant to be for public consumption rather than a serious effort to deal with an actual problem. As I noted above, it isn’t going to do much to deal with the Central American migrant crisis because those people are looking to turn themselves over to American law enforcement anyway, so encountering someone from the Texas National Guard is probably exactly what they’re looking for. Given that, I’m not sure how their presence on the border is going to “deter” those types of people in any case. As for the overall illegal border crossing issue, it is I suppose possible that these troops will be able to provide some assistance to Border Patrol, but they’d still be required by law to turn those people over to an already overburdened ICE immigration court system where there cases could linger for years while they remain in the country in some kind of weird quasi-legal status.

That’s why, in the end, it’s rather obvious that this move is more about politics than rationally addressing a real problem. In other words, business as usual.

FILED UNDER: Borders and Immigration, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. beth says:

    Rick Perry Sending National Guard To The Border For Reasons Even He Isn’t Sure Of

    I think he’s pretty sure he’s running for President.

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    One more thing: He wants the federal government to pay for it. Just like a good conservative, engage in useless theatrics and pass the bill on to someone else.

  3. michael reynolds says:

    As Beth says above, I think we know why. He’s a moron running for the moron vote in the party of morons. It’s very competitive.

  4. Tillman says:

    “There may be many other organizations that might more appropriately be called upon. If you’re talking about search and rescue, maintaining the rule of law or restoring conditions back to normal after a natural disaster or a catastrophe, the Guard is superbly suited to that. I’m not so sure that what we’re dealing with in scope and causation right now would make it the ideal choice.”

    Doesn’t HHS need more bodies to help manage all the undocumented kids and whatnot? I understand that also wouldn’t be a good use of the Guard, but it’d be a use better than whatever Perry’s got them doing.

  5. EddieInCA says:

    If you’re of a certain age, I just have two words:

    Kent. State.

    Except with children this time.

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Oh, also, I have read that there have been indications that the numbers are dropping off here of late. What do you want to bet that if they really are, Perry is going to take credit for “ending the assault on our borders”?

  7. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @michael reynolds: Every time I think the supply must be running short, more morons show up!

  8. al-Ameda says:

    The reason Rick is doing this is because he believes that those immigrant/refugee children are future Democratic party voters.

  9. C. Clavin says:

    Solution: Texas should secede. Problem solved.
    The Perry problem, that is.
    Smart people will still want to immigrate to America. After all, most of our ancestors did.

  10. Neil Hudelson says:


    He’s just doing his part to ensure the country doesn’t become a one party state.

  11. J-Dub says:

    If I were in the Texas National Guard I would be less than thrilled at putting my life on hold to be used as a prop in this guy’s political games.

  12. al-Ameda says:

    @Neil Hudelson:

    He’s just doing his part to ensure the country doesn’t become a one party state.

    I know, but SD says it’s inevitable, so Rick is in real trouble.

  13. C. Clavin says:

    I’m not sure why Perry needs to be singled out…this is really how Republicans govern; make a lot of noise and accomplish absolutely nothing. See also: Issa, Darrell.
    How anyone can vote Republican today is beyond me.

  14. edmondo says:

    Rick Perry Sending National Guard To The Border For Reasons Even He Isn’t Sure Of

    He’s small change. A real man would have sent 100,000 National Guard troops to Iraq for no apparent reason.

  15. Mu says:

    1000 troops for a 1,200 mile border, that allows you for what, one guy every 4 miles 24/7? I’m sure it’s a great deterrent.

  16. Ron Beasley says:

    My sister is a Houston Republican but assures me she has never voted for Rick Perry.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    I think it was Larry O’Donnell who observed last night that there are federal funds available for using the NG in disaster situations, there are federal funds available for using the NG in case of civil disorder, but are there any funds available for using the NG to mill around not actually doing anything?

  18. J-Dub says:

    I read somewhere yesterday that whoever sends them, pays for them. If Gov. Perry doesn’t ask the Federal Gov’t to send them then Texas has to pay for it.

  19. stonetools says:

    Perry has three reasons for why he is doing this:

    1. to project strength
    2. to burnish his conservative image
    3. Uh, he’s forgotten what the third one is.

    Remember that poll over how people aren’t impressed with Clinton’s foreign policy. Imagine her matching up against this guy….

  20. gVOR08 says:

    @C. Clavin:

    How anyone can vote Republican today is beyond me.

    So true, and so frustrating. How do they rationalize the bloody disaster that was the W administration?

  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: What W administration?

  22. DrDaveT says:


    there are federal funds available for using the NG in case of civil disorder

    Well, there you have it. Declaring “civil disorder” as a basis for sending in the troops has a venerable history…

  23. wr says:

    @stonetools: You are today’s winner!

  24. James says:

    As was pointed out, he wanted the federal government to call then up so he (Texas) wouldn’t have to pay for it, but after that failed he was stuck with the rhetoric of it being “necessary” so he now has to follow through with this. I’m sure the people of Texas will be thrilled when the check comes.

  25. Scott says:

    My memory fades over time but wasn’t it in the 90s that the right wing paranoids were all against the use of troops for law enforcement?

    Regardless, most of the border region (south of I-10) is against this action because they don’t see a severe problem; they believe that there is too much baggage with the Border Patrol, state troopers, and now the national guard. Of course, their opinions don’t matter to Texas Republicans who worry about the invasion from their besieged small towns in North Texas.

  26. JohnMcC says:

    Just to attempt to treat the stupid as if they actually had a brain, as my mother would wish me to, most of the news outlets that I’ve seen also mention in the deep paragraphs that the Texas Guard might be useful in drug interdiction while they’re watching out for Central American refugees. But they have no arrest power in that sphere either so it’s probably just some little string of words that sound like a meaningful phrase when voiced by that stupid person.

  27. LaMont says:

    So Perry is sending an insignificant number of NG personel who have no arrest power to ward off potential drug cartel criminals? I understand it’s purely for politics but this is an incompetent means to the end! Why even risk broadcasting his political incompetence? This doesn’t even pass the straight-face test…

  28. michael reynolds says:

    Here’s how it worked:

    1) Rick Perry opens idiot mouth attacks Obama for not sending Texas National Guard to Texas border.

    2) Whole world points out that Rick Perry commands the Texas National Guard.

    3) Rick Perry has underwear mishap.

    4) Panics. Runs around in circles.

    5) Decides he has no alternative but to keep digging that hole he’s in.

    6) Just as everyone is about to forget Rick Perry’s idiot challenge to Obama, Rick Perry reminds everyone that he’s an idiot.

    7) Wins support of morons and Republicans.

    8) Ah, but I repeat myself.

  29. denni9s says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yes, michael; you usually don’t repeat yourself in that fashion.

  30. de stijl says:

    The reason that Perry is sending the NG troops to the border is the same reason he is sporting those “serious guy” specs these days – for cosmetic reasons only.

  31. Ron Beasley says:

    @de stijl: One only has to wonder how long it will be before Perry dons one of those David Brooks blazers with leather elbow patches to make himself really look “intellectual.”