PolitiFact Texas: Operation Strong Safety

Our weekly check-in with the Texas Truth-o-Meter.

By Alain StephensJuly 29, 2015 8:08 am| ,

Rick Perry says apprehensions at the Texas-Mexico border plummeted last year. That means his deployment of troops was a policy that worked. Or so the former governor says.

Is that a fact?

Gardner Selby of the Austin American-Statesman’s fact checking team, PolitiFact Texas is here to set the record straight.

Perry ran his last campaign on his strength at the border, and this campaign he also mentions that drop in apprehensions by the U.S. Border Patrol. Which comment did you zero in on?

Our Reporter Bradley Saacks picked up on a statement Perry made while announcing his candidacy for president in June. We have tape of Perry talking here, just after he said he told President Barack Obama last year that if the federal government didn’t secure the border, Texas would.

“And because of that threat … posed by drug cartels … and transnational gangs,” Perry continued, “I deployed the Texas National Guard. And the policy worked. Apprehensions at the border declined 74 percent. If you elect me your president, I will secure that border.”

Perry was referring to his response to the influx last summer of tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors at the Texas-Mexico Border, right?

That’s correct – that would be Operation Strong Safety, which initially involved Texas DPS troopers, then National Guard troops, dispatched to the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector to help the federal government keep watch. The operation continues, by the way.

So, how did Perry back up his claim?

His spokeswoman, Lucy Nashed, pointed us to a state fact sheet and chart showing weekly apprehensions in the sector mostly decreasing after the operation began in late June 2014.

So, 74 percent?

If you compare apprehensions that last week Perry was governor this January to the first week of the deployment, there’s a 76 percent difference; basically 1,561 was down from about 6,606 before.

So it sounds like Perry was correct about the operation throttling border crossers?

Solid apprehension a counts. But when we looked for evidence the Texas deployment explains that reduction, other factors came up.

There’s always the fine print – what were those other factors?

A report by the left-leaning Washington Office on Latin America, said primarily the reason it went down because of a crackdown by Mexico on Central American immigrants crossing its southern border, into Mexico. That report said Mexico curtailed their use of cargo trains and hastened deportations.

One more notable publication, The Arizona Republic, quoted a Border Patrol official saying it didn’t expect another surge in children crossing from Mexico – that official also credited Mexico’s southern crackdown.

Not anything that Texas was doing. But surely that’s not the only other factor that led to fewer apprehensions.

Tony Payan of Rice University pointed out that in June 2014, 115 Border Patrol officers were transferred to the Rio Grande Valley sector from other places with another larger Border Patrol deployment announced later the same month.

Well, I guess that brings us to the Texas Truth-O-Meter. How did Perry’s statement fare?

While the 74 percent statistic holds up, but we didn’t find proof the decrease resulted from the Texas surge. We talked about all the factors – our editors settled on Mostly False.