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Plan To Keep National Guard Troops At The Border Rattles Activists

Ryan Poppe
Texas Public Radio

Immigration activists are gathering in Austin Wednesday to rally for reforms. The activists have a long list of complaints. Among them is a demand that National Guard troops be removed from the border.

Last summer, Republican leaders at the Legislature approved the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border, which cost taxpayers an estimated $12 million a month for each month of their deployment. They had stated that the extra security was needed to protect the state from illegal immigrants and cross-border crime.

In December, lawmakers approved an $86 million supplemental budget bill, with a clause that the National Guard would no longer be on the border after March.

This week, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced that he intended to continue the deployment of the Guard, even though he did not say how many guards would remain. 

“I want the Guard to stay on the border through the end of this fiscal year, which is August. Which would allow the Legislature to make decisions on keeping the Guard there longer. As you also know, I, along with Senate finance chair Jane Nelson, put forth a budget that would fund the Guard there for two years longer, along with funding DPS at the highest levels available for border security,” Patrick stated, with all of the Senate’s Republican members standing in the background.

Patrick predicted that bill would be $800 million in the next two-year budget, which is twice the amount of money the state spent on border security during the previous session.

But a statewide immigration group said that the money Patrick plans to spend will be funds that could be better spent on social services in border communities. Alejandro Caceres is with the group Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance. Caceres said Patrick had no proof that the National Guard has been effective.

Credit Ryan E. Poppe
Alejandro Caceras with the group, Reform Immigration Texas Alliance and the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition.

“He’s throwing out numbers saying we captured this many people, you know no one was captured, a lot of folks were seeking refuge, right, so they turned themselves in to the officers. So I don’t think that’s the best way for us to use that money right now, especially at the moment, as there is no detailed description telling us what the National Guard is going to be doing at the border,” said Caceres.

Immigration activists said that they were also calling for the protection of in-state tuition fees for immigrant students, expanding Texas driver licenses for immigrants and rejecting the so-called “sanctuary cities” legislation.

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.