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Jun 30.14

Bonnen responds to Border crisis

After years of constant warning, the American people are now recognizing the problems that our porous southern border is causing Texas law enforcement agencies, healthcare services, and public safety infrastructure. The unprecedented increase in unauthorized crossing by adults and minors alike has prompted the federal government to expand the number of containment facilities and detainee transportation operations, has overwhelmed the federal immigration system's processing operations, and has forced our state government to carry the burden of providing millions of dollars in health related services for which we are no adequately reimbursed by the federal government. As Governor Perry continues to press Congress and the President for action as he has for several years without success, the State of Texas has consistently expanded the presence of the Department of Publics Safety's Homeland Security functions across South and West Texas in an effort to reinforce US Border Patrol and Customs operations. While state forces continue to supplement the activities of our federal counterparts, neither the US Department of Homeland Security nor FEMA have authorized any future involvement from Texas resources.

DPS and the Governor are working to counter this threat with existing resources, and to target our efforts at the startling influx of crossings along the Rio Grande. The Legislature also stands ready to provide any increased assistance to DPS which may be necessary to address this problem. As we evaluate the situation at our border and coordinate increased law enforcement action, we must also acknowledge that the State of Texas does not have the authority to change federal immigration law, interfere with federal detention and processing operations, or engage in direct border patrolling activities in conflict with the stated directives of the United State Department of Homeland Security. Texans will protect Texas by any means available, but Congress and the President must be held accountable for their constitutionally mandated responsibility to protect our Borders.

Recent data released by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) leaves no room for doubt or speculation regarding our border crisis. These charts clearly reveal that Texas is experiencing a tremendous and unprecedented influx of illegal aliens. What makes this situation more unique is that much of this increase does not follow the typical pattern of illegal entry at the Texas-Mexico border. The Rio Grande Valley in particular has witness a 58% increase in total apprehensions during the Fiscal Year 2013 from the previous year. Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) apprehensions have increased by 100% between 2012 and 2013, and 312% since 2011. Many of these children are from countries other than Mexico (OTM), including El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

The Rio Grande Valley (RGV) has experienced a sharp increase in illegal alien apprehensions since FY2011. Total apprehensions in the RGV Sector are at historically elevated levels, and include greater numbers of other-than-Mexicans (OTMs) and unaccompanied alien children (UACs) than any other sector along the U.S.-Mexico border. Apprehensions of Mexican illegal aliens continue to be concentrated in the Tucson Sector, followed by the RGV. In addition, total apprehensions are now highest in the RGV Sector, which represents a noteworthy change from previous years.

This influx is taxing our public safety, education, and healthcare systems, while creating a startling humanitarian crisis. Our communities are also seeing more arrests involving human and drug trafficking. Smuggled children are being exploited, kidnapped, physically and sexually assaulted, and forced into prostitution. These and other criminal enterprises, especially those involving gang activity and drug trafficking, are seeing into the interior of our country.

While the State of Texas lacks the authority to enforce existing federal immigration laws, we can and will do everything in our power to ensure the safety of our citizens. Last week, I supported our Texas leadership in their decision to instruct DPS to being an immediate surge along the Texas-Mexico border. This decision comes on the heels of a biennial state budget which increased border security operation funding by 55% ($122 million). These measures will enable DPS to increase efforts along the border with an additional $1.3 million-per-week operation. County and municipal agencies will be provided overtime funding, Trooper Strike Teams and Ranger Reconnaissance Teams will be deployed, and aviation operations will be bolstered, as will maritime patrols and observation/intelligence gathering posts. These efforts will be executed in partnership with our local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies and include many of the same components as Operation Strong Safety, a 3-week initiative conducted in 2013 by the State of Texas that produced significant results in decreasing criminal activity.

Texans can be assured that we are not simply writing a blank check to DPS nor are we absolving the federal government of its responsibility. These state efforts and their outcomes are being closely monitored and evaluated by Texas lawmakers. Meanwhile, the Obama administration continues to hear from our state leaders, including a recent request of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott for $30 million from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (which remains unanswered). As a result of this increased pressure, we are slowly beginning to see the federal government respond as Texas unilaterally forges ahead. The Chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, Michael McCaul of Texas, will soon convene a hearing of that committee in the Rio Grande Valley, drawing Congress's attention to the crisis Texans are witnessing. Governor Rick Perry will testify at that hearing, offering a firsthand account of the ongoing emergency that Washington desperately needs to see. While we will not let our federal government off the hook, the State of Texas will remain stalwart in fulfilling its responsibility to protect our citizens by securing our borders. Texas will continue to serve as an example to the rest of the nation on how to rise to the challenge when the federal government has failed us.




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