HIDALGO, TEXAS — The first wave of National Guard troops has taken up observation posts along the Texas-Mexico border.
Several dozen soldiers deployed in the Rio Grande Valley are part of the up to 1,000 troops called up by Gov. Rick Perry last month, Texas National Guard Master Sgt. Ken Walker of the Joint Counterdrug Task Force said Thursday.
Several guardsmen were seen Thursday afternoon manning an observation tower along the busy road leading to the Hidalgo International Bridge.
This first batch of troops was specifically trained to man such observation towers in the area belonging to local law enforcement agencies and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Walker said. They will serve as extra eyes on the border and report suspicious activity to authorities.
State officials have estimated the deployment will cost $12 million per month. Perry said the troops were necessary to help secure the border while the Border Patrol was busy with a surge in illegal immigration.
From October to July, 63,000 unaccompanied children were arrested after entering the U.S. illegally, double the number from the same period a year earlier. Another 63,000 families — mothers or fathers with young children — were arrested during that period.
"They're just there for support," Walker said of the soldiers. "We're just trying to give some relief to the guys at Customs and Border Protection" and other law enforcement agencies.
The guardsmen seen Thursday were manning a tower owned by the Hidalgo Police Department.
Hidalgo Police Chief Rodolfo Espinoza said he would normally not have his department's two towers manned. They have cameras that can pan the area and record activity, but having a person that can recognize something suspicious and report it is more valuable, he said.
"It is good to have them," Espinoza said of the soldiers. "It is a positive benefit for everybody."