WESLACO — Gov. Rick Perry on Monday warned that if Central American leaders do not heed the call to stop their citizens from flooding across the Texas-Mexico border, the summer months will bear witness to a “trail of tears” caused by a surge of dead migrants.
The governor pulled few punches during a news conference at a Department of Public Safety facility after a tour of federal detention facilities housing unaccompanied minors. He repeatedly criticized the federal government, saying it has failed to do its duty and secure the southern border with Mexico.
“We can’t allow this to happen, and our federal government is the one that has the ability to work with those countries to stop this from happening,” he said. “We know you can do this, but there has to be the will and there has to be the courage.”
The governor also reiterated his belief that a special session of the Legislature will not be necessary, rejecting requests made by some conservative Republicans and, most recently, by state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth. The Democratic candidate for governor on Monday called on Perry to bring lawmakers back to Austin to allocate more resources and declare a state of emergency.
“I think the state of Texas has already made the moves substantially quicker than bringing the Legislature in” would, he said. “All they are going to do is appropriate money. We’ve already done that.”
The Obama administration has repeatedly defended itself against criticism from state lawmakers by saying it has staffed the U.S. Border Patrol to record levels. The administration has also reached a record number of deportations. But recently, the Obama administration conceded that the current influx on the border presents a stark challenge.
Perry said decisive action must be taken before the summer heats up more.
“There are babies there that have been transported all across Mexico,” he said. “I am telling you, that in July and August, if the message does not get out into those countries in Central America, you’re going to see a trail of tears again from Central America to Texas.”
Perry said last week that a main reason for the increase in state patrols is because the U.S. Border Patrol is overwhelmed by the increase in illegal migration. The agency could lose focus on its primary mission, he said, which is to secure the border.
Steve McCraw, the director of the Texas DPS, said he believed criminal gangs have already incorporated the increase in illegal border crossings into their efforts to transport more contraband into Texas and beyond.
“We know how the cartels work, and surely they are exploiting this opportunity to also move criminal aliens, transnational gangs and drugs … into Texas,” McCraw said. Transnational gangs have already “butchered” 80,000 of their own people and intimidated politicians and journalists, he added.
“That’s how they operate, [and] they operate on both sides of the border,” he said.
The issue has become a political football at the state level as some Texas Democrats have accused Republicans of using what has been called a humanitarian crisis as an excuse to militarize the border.
In Weslaco, however, Perry reserved his criticism for the federal government, saying it was being difficult to work with and was not supplying enough resources on the border.
“The federal government spends hundreds of millions of dollars on foreign aid going into countries south of the United States,” he said. “Yet this administration is being hesitant about spending some millions of dollars to secure the border. I think that’s what Americans are really upset about.”
A country that receives aid from the United States should be considered a partner, the governor added. As such, it should do its part to deter immigrants from making the dangerous trek from Central America through Mexico, where many would-be crossers die on the journey.
“That is unacceptable,” he said. “We need to be sending a clear message to them: You have to do your part to stop this huge deluge of individuals coming up from your country.”
The DPS did not divulge specific details on what the current operation will entail, citing security concerns. Spokesman Tom Vinger instead said that “DPS will work together with our law enforcement partners to combat the ruthless Mexican cartels who are preying upon our communities and who continue to commit heinous and unimaginable crimes on both sides of the border.”