Gov. Perry's Remarks Regarding Border Cameras - El Paso
Thank you, Captain (Lambert) Cantu. I am honored to be here with El Paso County Sheriff Leo Samaniego, and the law enforcement officials who not only protect Texas border communities, but also serve on the front lines of America’s homeland security efforts.
Border peace officers and the citizens they protect are often the first to suffer the consequences of a weak and porous border caused by federal inaction. International crime syndicates now use strongholds on the Mexican side of the border as a base of operations to smuggle drugs and human beings into this country.
In recent months, state and local officers have engaged in armed standoffs, intense gun battles and high speed chases pursuing an enemy that is increasingly bold and determined. At least two deputies, and one deputy’s wife in Hudspeth County, have been threatened to “stay off the river” or their families would be killed. And based on a recently concluded investigation by the Texas Rangers, we now know that on at least one occasion the Mexican military has crossed onto sovereign U.S. soil. Though this incident occurred several years ago, it raises new concerns about more recent confrontations such as one that involved armed men wearing Mexican military-style uniforms.
This is alarming on many levels, but what concerns me most is this: if our border cannot prevent the entry of foreign soldiers wearing clearly identifiable uniforms, what are the odds it will stop an enemy who wears no uniform, specializes in avoiding detection, and spends every waking hour planning its next attack on America?
Federal intelligence sources have confirmed that Al Qaeda views the southern border as a prime point of entry into this country. And yet, the federal Department of Homeland Security announced last week that funding for Texas will be cut by 31 percent. This funding disparity, combined with continued federal inaction, jeopardizes our security and reinforces my belief that Texas must never wait for Washington to act. That is why I have authorized millions of dollars to help border sheriffs increase patrols, and ordered a sweeping border security initiative called Operation Rio Grande.
Under this initiative, we have centralized command, control and intelligence activities at a new Border Security Operations Center that operates 24 hours a day. We are conducting coordinated operations involving state and local officers, the National Guard, covert surveillance units and canine tracking teams, and aviation assets from the Department of Public Safety and the Texas Civil Air Patrol. And as a result of our efforts, officers have taken millions of dollars worth of illegal drugs and dozens of violent criminals off Texas streets.
Today we are here to let Texans know that Texas will continue to help secure our border with new technology and financial resources that can fill the gap left by the federal government. To address continuing border security needs, Texas is dedicating $20 million in available state funds to sustain and expand Operation Rio Grande. These funds will be used to pay for officer overtime, needed equipment like 4-wheel drive vehicles, body armor and night vision goggles, and technology upgrades such as electronic fingerprint booking stations. Funding will not only continue to flow to border sheriffs, but will also go to local police departments and law enforcement agencies up to 100 miles from the border.
I will also ask the next legislature to authorize $100 million to sustain Operation Rio Grande until the federal government lives up to its responsibility of securing the border. If approved by lawmakers, this commitment will put the equivalent of 1,000 additional officers on the border, and putting more officers on the ground has always been the best strategy for reducing all types of crime. Texas will also make a historic investment in technology to protect our border.
With the voluntary participation of private landowners, Texas will begin posting hundreds of surveillance cameras along criminal hotspots and common routes used to enter this country. These cameras, paid for with millions of dollars made available by my office, will cover vast stretches of farm and ranchland located directly on the border where criminal activity is known to occur, and not the neighborhoods where families will continue to enjoy their privacy. Landowners will be able to monitor and defend their property from criminals who might endanger their families.
We will make the video feed available to state, local and federal law enforcement agencies so they can respond swiftly and appropriately. And we will post this video on the Internet, in real time, so that concerned Americans can help protect our nation through online neighborhood watch programs. This video will be available 24 hours a day because cameras will be equipped with night vision capabilities.
When citizens witness a crime, they will be able to call an 800 number and be routed to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Under the watchful eyes of law enforcement and the American people, criminals who smuggle drugs and human beings, predators who commit violent crimes against citizen and immigrant alike, and terror groups looking to exploit our border will all lose their greatest strategic asset: the cloak of secrecy.
Enforcing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, but Texas will not wait to act. By leveraging advanced video technology and the power of the Internet, and with an increased financial commitment from the state of Texas, we can make our border stronger and our nation safer.
That is what the American people want, that is what our security demands, and that is what Texas is going to deliver.
Thank you. And now it is my honor to introduce a leader who is making Texas safer, Sheriff Leo Samaniego.
We would be happy to take your questions.
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