The Border: Texas Steps Up Where Washington Falls Down
During a time when Washington seems more determined than ever to inject itself into the day-to-day lives of everyone in the country, border security is one area - a legitimate federal responsibility - where the federal government has demonstrated a decided lack of urgency.
For Texans, border security is not, and never has been, a mere rhetorical exercise. It has a direct and tangible impact on the lives of everyone who lives in the Lone Star State, as well as grave homeland security implications, which is why - over the past several years - we have given up waiting for Washington and done it ourselves.
In 2005, Texas vastly expanded our border operations, increasing the number of law enforcement officers on patrol along the border - the "boots on the ground" that are so vital to success. We focused first on local authorities, giving the people who best understood their specific needs the resources and support to address their problems directly.
Beyond that, we deployed state-of-the-art helicopters, enhanced integral radio communications between the various levels of law enforcement, and expanded the sharing of information and the use of new technologies.
In 2007, lawmakers authorized my request for $110 million to expand our efforts further, increasing our patrol capacity to detect, disrupt and deter organized smuggling activity. A key part of the plan was providing critical funding to pay local law enforcement officers overtime to help U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel conduct random inspections, helping intercept stolen vehicles, bulk cash and weapons flowing into Mexico.
The results were striking, as crime fell as much as 65 percent in the areas targeted in those operations.
However, the process of securing a border is an ongoing effort, and the drop in crime, although welcome, is no sign we can relax. Instead, we need to press even harder and call on Washington even more loudly to meet their obligations to secure the border. The profits from smuggling drugs and humans are enormous, and the Mexican organized crime cartels are too adaptable and too persistent for Texas to go it alone.
Also, as battles wage between cartels in Mexico, the potential of spillover violence needs to be addressed. Ciudad Juarez is more dangerous than Iraq with more than 4,700 murders since January 2008.
In our own major cities, members of transnational gangs like MS-13, Barrio Azteca, Hermanos de Pistoleros Latinos, Tango Blast and the Mexican Mafia conduct criminal operations on our streets, along the way recruiting new members from our communities and schools into lifestyles of violence and death.
Compounding this are the countless lives devastated by drug violence, the drugs themselves, and related criminal activities such as human trafficking and child prostitution.
Thankfully, during last year's session, the Texas Legislature allocated $113 million to maintain and expand our border security efforts, affirming our commitment to working with local law enforcement and the U.S. Border Patrol to protect Texans.
Late last year, I announced the formation of Ranger Recon Teams, consisting of members of the Texas Rangers supported by Texas National Guard Counterdrug forces, in coordination with our Texas sheriffs and DPS Highway Patrol strike teams. These teams will be deployed to "hot spots" in remote areas along the border, where well-armed smugglers seek to avoid detection.
These teams are nimble, lean and tapped into the best information our intelligence sources can provide. They will redeploy as needed to consistently stay one step ahead of the bad guys, utilizing advanced technology and unified intelligence.
In response to recent violence along the border, including the murder of three people connected to the U.S. consulate in Mexico, I activated our state's Spillover Violence Contingency plan, which includes deployment of a number of Guard helicopters that are supporting surveillance and interdiction activities along the border.
More, of course, must be done. In the absence of adequate federal resources along the border, I'm continually asking the Obama administration for an additional 1,000 National Guard troops under our control and six helicopters equipped with Forward Looking Infrared Radar to support our border operations. Under federal law, this authorization requires an order from the president, which I requested in January of 2009 and have continually asked for approval.
To date, I've received no official word from Washington, so politics-as-usual continue.
Of all the issues in the national spotlight and all the funding being thrown around in D.C., border security is one area where Washington needs to make its presence known, and fast. Until then, we will continue to rely on our state's law enforcement personnel to hold the line and keep Texans safe.
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