Texas’ top three officials — Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus — are extending state efforts to seal the border with Mexico through next summer at a cost of $86.1 million.
That’s good, red-meat Republican politics for all three. Even though Perry and Dewhurst will be out of office come January, the governor seems likely to make another try at becoming president and Dewhurst has said he’ll stay politically involved.
It might even be good public policy. The Texas-Mexico border is, indeed, porous. U.S. Border Patrol apprehensions of undocumented immigrants along the Rio Grande have grown from 112,426 in 2011 to 286,866 so far this year (as of October).
Still, the announcement this week is troublesome in at least two ways: It’s a major, expensive policy change that comes without a vote from the Legislature, and it’s a significant mission creep from when Department of Public Safety officers and National Guard troops were surged along the border in June and July.
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The Republican-dominated Legislature probably would approve the renewed border deployments if asked. Perry consistently has said the surge is necessary because Congress and the president have failed to seal the border.
A formal mechanism through the Legislative Budget Board allows reallocating budgeted funds without a vote from lawmakers, and it’s being employed in this case.
Still, the Legislature comes back in session on Jan. 13. Its members should be asked for a resolution of support as soon as possible.
That’s essential because of the mission creep.
When these same officials announced the DPS border surge last June, and again the next month when Perry dispatched National Guard troops to help, it was in the context of what Perry referred to as a “humanitarian crisis unfolding as a result of the massive influx of unaccompanied alien children” from Central America.
The crisis faded, but the state effort remains.
Perry says “Texas has proven beyond any doubt that this border can be secured,” and he wants that to continue.
State lawmakers should say whether Texas should show the federal government how to do its job.