10-12-05 - Gov. Rick Perry vowed Wednesday to provide $9.7 million for a sheriff group's security plan along the Texas-Mexico border, money he said would meet immediate needs until the federal government decides on permanent funding.
"It's a one-time thing right now, but the fact of the matter is we're going to be counting on our federal counterparts," Perry said while making the announcement across the border from Nuevo Laredo, which has been plagued by drug-related violence this year.
"Operation Linebacker," the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition plan to boost border security, would get $3 million to hire additional deputies, $3 million for overtime pay and $3.7 million for other initiatives from Perry's criminal justice fund.
The plan also would establish four rapid deployment teams, each with 50 Department of Public Safety troopers, and permanently assign 54 DPS criminal investigators on the border to support local law enforcement.
"Enforcement of our border is a federal responsibility, but the consequences of inaction is suffered by border states," Perry said. "The state of Texas cannot wait for the federal government to implement needed border security measures."
Perry said he has been in talks with governors of Mexico's border states about the plan. He said he will ask the Legislature next session to expand wiretap authorities for border investigations.
Perry said he will not support a particular federal plan.
"I'm for the one that frankly brings the most money to our sheriffs," he said.
U.S. Sens. Kay Bailey Hutchison and John Cornyn have pursued federal help along the border.
Hutchison last week introduced a bill that seeks to give arrest powers of illegal immigrants to state and local police currently granted only to federal immigration authorities. Cornyn recent sent a letter asking Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to examine the situation on the border and reallocate resources as necessary.
The Senate also is considering two immigration reform bills that seek to create guest worker programs and tighter border enforcement, among other measures.
Perry called for more federal detention space and expressed concern about the growing number of illegal immigrants beyond Mexico, saying 120,000 from other countries had entered Texas in the first seven months of the year. Perry said that number included people from countries with ties to al-Qaida, such as Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.
Perry said he hoped the federal homeland security department would declare the border a "high threat" area, making it eligible for the same grants that go to highly populated regions.