Legislature should debate border plan

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick says Texas must continue to deploy National Guard troops to help seal the Mexican border.

Under a plan announced in December, the Guard members — as many as 1,000 at one point, about 200 now — were scheduled to go home next month.

They were deployed last summer to assist a surge of Department of Public Safety officers confronting a wave of illegal immigrants, including families and unaccompanied children.

“You don’t stop doing something that’s working for the safety of Texans,” Patrick said Tuesday.

He wants to spend $12 million to continue the deployment through May, an unspecified amount to extend it again through August, and $284 million more for DPS and National Guard border operations in the 2016-17 budget.

He might be talking out of turn. House Speaker Joe Straus said Guard deployments are for the governor to decide, and Gov. Greg Abbott was silent.

Shouldn’t the Legislature weigh in on how much of the state’s resources will be devoted to immigration enforcement and the effort to seal the border? So far, lawmakers are acting like they’re only along for the ride.

Shouldn’t border operations be transparent and accountable?

Former Gov. Rick Perry was responding to a crisis when he launched the DPS border surge last June. Mission creep came in August when he sent in the National Guard to seal the border because the federal government had failed to do so.

He and other state leaders gathered $86 million in December to continue the operations through March.

Setting up a long-term state effort to patrol the border, control illegal immigration, fight border-related crime and even guard against the threat of terrorists entering Texas from the south — all of it is major state policy.

Legislators will vote on the budget later this spring, but by then border operations will be buried in $200 billion of education, transportation, healthcare and other needs.

If a permanent Texas Border Patrol is in the cards, our lawmakers should find a specific way to debate it and vote on it.