McALLEN, Texas — Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a vocal critic of the White House's response to the surge of children and families entering the U.S. illegally, plans to deploy as many as 1,000 National Guard troops to the Mexico border, a local lawmaker confirmed Monday.
Perry, who has not said whether he will seek the Republican nomination for president in 2016, spent the weekend talking to voters in Iowa, where he questioned President Barack Obama's commitment to securing the border and said Texas would do so if the federal government did not.
On Monday, Rep. Terry Canales said he was briefed by his staff on Sunday following a conference call with the governor's office, Texas National Guard and the state Department of Public Safety. Perry is scheduled to make the announcement Monday afternoon.
More than 3,000 Border Patrol agents currently work in the region, and Perry has repeatedly asked Obama to send the National Guard to the border. The region has been overwhelmed in recent months by unaccompanied children illegally entering the U.S.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. The governor's plans were first reported by The Monitor newspaper in McAllen, Texas.
Perry announced in June that the state would steer another $1.3 million each week to the Department of Public Safety to assist in border security through at least the end of the year. In a letter to Obama on June 20, Perry made several requests for help along the border, including 1,000 National Guard troops, additional helicopters and giving troops "arrest powers to support Border Patrol operations until sufficient Border Patrol resources can be hired, trained and deployed to the border."
In a White House letter to Perry on July 7, Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett laid out steps the administration was taking to deal with what the president had called an "urgent humanitarian situation," but did not mention the National Guard. Obama met with Perry two days later in Dallas, and the administration has worked with Mexico and other countries the immigrants are leaving to make it clear they will not be allowed to stay in the U.S.
On previous border deployments, National Guard soldiers have served in support roles — administrative, intelligence gathering — while the Border Patrol expanded its ranks. Some National Guard troops already participate in counter-drug operations on the border, though they don't have arrest powers.
Since October, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children and teenagers have entered the U.S. illegally — more than double compared to 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. Their numbers overwhelmed Border Patrol facilities in the Rio Grande Valley, leading Perry and the Texas Department of Public Safety to argue that Border Patrol agents distracted by groups of children and families were leaving gaps.
Most of those children have been turning themselves in to the first person in a uniform they see.
On Monday, Canales questioned Perry's plan of sending National Guard troops to the border.
"I don't understand what their tactic is, and I don't think it's going to work," the Democrat said.
He said the state may see a dip in the short term, but that such a surge by the state is unsustainable and the drug cartels would simply wait the troops out.
"They might get the desired effect, but it won't last long," he said.