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Gov. Rick Perry to deploy 1,000 National Guard troops to RGV

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Kelly West

National Guard Capt. Martha Nigrelle takes a photo of a washed-out bridge to show the hazardous terrain Border Patrol agents encounter on May 19, 2014, in Laredo, Texas. Border Patrol agents are guided to illegal immigrants by National Guard troops in Lakota helicopters equipped with thermal imaging camera systems. (Kelly West/Austin American Statesman/MCT)

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Texas Gov. Rick Perry plans to announce he will activate the Texas National Guard at a news conference Monday in Austin, said state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. 

Hinojosa did not have details of the effort, but an internal memo from another state official’s office said the governor planned to call about 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley — at a cost of about $12 million per month.

The memo was provided to The Monitor on the condition of anonymity because the information is not yet public.

Troops are expected to enter the area gradually, building up to 1,000 after about a month, the memo said.

The troops will join the Texas Department of Public Safety in its recent surge to combat human smuggling and drug trafficking amid the influx of mostly Central Americans illegally crossing the Rio Grande. Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, and Texas House Speaker Joe Straus announced the $1.3 million per week effort last month.

State leaders approved funding for extra DPS troopers to fill in gaps in Border Patrol coverage in the Valley as the federal authorities were overwhelmed with an influx of children and families from Central America. The state officials feared Mexican drug cartels might exploit the situation to move their own drugs and human contraband while Border Patrol attention was turned elsewhere.

Hinojosa said Perry's move smacked of political gamesmanship.

“All these politicians coming down to border, they don't care about solving the problem, they just want to make a political point,” he said.

State officials denied the move amounted to a militarization of the border.

“This is not a militarization of the border,” the memo states. “The DPS and the National Guard are working to keep any drug and human trafficking south of (U.S. Highway) 83 and with the goal of keeping any smuggling from entering major highways to transport East/West/and North.”

DPS officials want to send National Guard troops into western areas of the Valley and the ranch lands further north, according to the memo.

“Smuggling has supposedly according to DPS moved West on the border with an increase in Jim Hogg County," the memo states. "DPS especially wants to apply the Guard in the rural areas to patrol.”

The National Guard deployment — added to the DPS surge — will bring the price tag of troopers on the border to about $5 million per week, the memo said. And the funding source for the effort remains unclear.

“It is not clear where the money will come from in the budget,” the memo states, adding that Perry's office has said the money will come from “non critical” areas, such as health care or transportation.

Hinojosa said the National Guard was not equipped to aid immigrants crossing the Rio Grande.

“They (cartels) are taking advantage of the situation,” he said. “But our local law enforcement from the sheriff’s offices of the different counties to the different police departments are taking care of the situation. This is a civil matter, not a military matter. What we need is more resources to hire more deputies, hire more Border Patrol.

“These are young people, just families coming across. They're not armed. They're not carrying weapons.”

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5 images

Kelly West

National Guard Capt. Martha Nigrelle takes a photo of a washed-out bridge to show the hazardous terrain Border Patrol agents encounter on May 19, 2014, in Laredo, Texas. Border Patrol agents are guided to illegal immigrants by National Guard troops in Lakota helicopters equipped with thermal imaging camera systems. (Kelly West/Austin American Statesman/MCT)

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