The surge in immigrant children has prompted Gov. Greg Abbott to extend National Guard deployments at the Texas border. Paul Weber, a reporter covering the story for the Associated Press, says while the exact number of troops is unknown, it’s probably in the low hundreds.
“In December of 2014 when Gov. Perry first deployed the National Guard to the border, he sent up to 1,000 troops,” Weber says. “But as recently as February, state officials said that there’s now only about 200 troops there. And that was in anticipation of an expected drawdown to eventually get the troops out of there.”
Officials, who said Tuesday no new deployments are going to the border, have been protective with information about the end date of the deployment, Weber says. Following Tuesday’s announcement, Abbott said the original plan was for the troops to come home this month. With the extension, the National Guard will be there indefinitely.
“It’s important to remember that this is already one of the longest domestic deployments [of] the National Guard in U.S. history,” Weber says. “Now it’s a question of how much longer they’re going to be there.”
Troops at the border are in uniform and are armed. Weber says they look like soldiers, but they predominantly have an observational role.
“Unlike the border patrol or DPS troopers – who are having increased presence down there – the National Guard is really just there to observe,” Weber says. “They might see someone crossing the border, they’ll call DPS or they’ll call Border Patrol and have them deal with it. But they don’t actually make any arrests. So they’re really just an extra set of eyes.”
Abbott originally approved a record $800 million in state border security spending earlier this year. That’s double the amount former Texas Gov. Rick Perry spent on border security.
Along with the extension in National Guard troops’ stay, Abbott has also ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety to increase patrols along the border. Weber says there’s air of cooperation.
“The Border Patrol chief didn’t criticize the governor’s move yesterday,” he says. “He just reiterated that Border Patrol works together already with DPS, with the National Guard with local sheriffs and local police that are already on the border. [The message on the border] is that we’re all cooperating and we’re all on the same page.”