AUSTIN (CBSDFW.COM) – Texas is asking National and State Guard troops to volunteer to go to the border. But because this is considered active state duty, the Guard troops will get paid.
One day after Governor Rick Perry deployed up to 1,000 Guard troops, the man who oversees the Texas Military Forces, Adjutant General John Nichols says he expects enough of them will volunteer.
“We’re not going to pick units per se because we’re not going to say we want this unit or that unit because we have folks in Afghanistan, we have folks preparing for hurricanes, floods and fires, and if I pick one unit, I may take away from those capabilities and I want to keep all the capabilities in Texas — all of it.”
During a briefing with reporters Tuesday afternoon from the Texas Military Forces headquarters at Camp Mabry, the Major General said the first National Guard troops should arrive in the Rio Grande Valley in the next two weeks, and that it will take 45 days to get all 1,000 troops down to the border.
Major General Nichols says they first discussed a possible deployment last month, after Governor Perry, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst, and House Speaker Joe Straus ordered the Department of Public Safety to begin surge operations to secure the border.
It’s called Operation Strong Safety.
Major General Nichols says the Guard troops will help state troopers detect and prevent criminals from entering the U.S.
“Currently, DPS is in observation posts, so they’ve got someone doing the same kind of mission. By us coming down there, we can free those posts and allow them to be more mobile and responsive.”
He says when training begins shortly, DPS will go through a variety of scenarios with Guard troops.
One key part of the training will be teaching troops some common phrases in Spanish including “please have a seat,” “wait here,” and maybe “stop.”
General Nichols says, “But if we have complete Spanish speakers, that’d be perfect.”
Since October 1, about 57,000 unaccompanied children from Central America fled violence there and illegally entered the U.S., overwhelming Border Patrol Agents.
The government says that’s about one-fifth the number of adults who’ve illegally crossed the border.
Some residents in border communities have expressed concerns that Guard troops don’t have the authority to arrest people.
“Under state active duty, we could detain, but we prefer to let law enforcement to do that,” said General Nichols. “We’ll deter by being fully visible, and refer anyone who comes our way to law enforcement. DPS will be close-by.”
Other critics, including some Democrats, worry the deployment will create tension and militarize the border.
Major General Nichols disagrees.
“We don’t feel like this is a militarization. This is the National Guard coming in and helping Texas at a time of need. We’re supporting DPS; we’re not taking over anything.”
The cost to Texas taxpayers to activate the National Guard at the border is about $12 million each month.
The Guard could be deployed up to one year.
That’s in addition to the $1.3 million the state is paying each week for DPS to conduct border surge operations.
Republican state leaders say they expect the federal government to reimburse the state.
If not, Attorney General Greg Abbott warned Monday the state may sue the feds to get the money back.
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