In the last year and a half, the Texas Department of Public Safety has had a surge in the number of Hispanic troopers. More than 40 percent of its 450 graduates from the DPS trooper academy have been Hispanic – perhaps the most in Texas history. The state’s population as a whole is becoming more Hispanic, but the shift in the DPS force comes at a critical time.
Tom Benning, Dallas Morning News reporter, says his increase is not “affirmative action” at work, but rather a byproduct of increased funding and a large number of immigrants illegally crossing the Texas-Mexico border.
Texas spent $800 million over the past two years at the border, largely in the Rio Grande valley. For years, DPS had been complaining of low pay compared to other big departments, like U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Benning says.
“So, all of a sudden, down in the border area, you have a chance for a higher-paying job, competitive with these other agencies,” he says. “You also have the opportunity for folks to stay close to their family, their friends down there, and all of a sudden it starts looking a lot more appealing.”
Former Gov. Rick Perry pushed for an increase in border security in 2014 and extra funding came through in the last legislative session – despite Democrats’ attempts to block the bill.
“The Democrats who criticized this, they still have the same concerns they’ve always had, which is what is the measurement of success,” Benning says. “What we’re looking at here is an impact, but it doesn’t necessarily get to the overall question of success at the border.”
Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.
Post by Beth Cortez-Neavel.