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The Brief: Sept. 17, 2014

State leaders seem reluctant to break out the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the border surge even though apprehensions of illegal immigrants have hit a target goal laid out in July.

Gov. Perry and DPS Director Steve McCraw, speak to media following a tour to a federal facility housing unaccompanied alien children in Weslaco, Texas June 23rd, 2014. The state is providing $1.3 million per week to commence surge operations to help combat crime along the border.

The Big Conversation

State leaders seem reluctant to break out the "Mission Accomplished" banner on the border surge even though, as the Houston Chronicle's Brian Rosenthal reports, apprehensions of illegal immigrants have hit a target goal laid out in July by the head of the Department of Public Safety.

Rosenthal writes:

Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, mentioned at a legislative committee last week that officers in the Rio Grande Valley operation zone had caught just 1,977 illegal immigrants the week before. In July, when weekly apprehensions averaged around 4,000, McCraw told lawmakers the mission's "intended objective" was to reduce unlawful crossing so much that officers encountered fewer than 2,000 per week.

The reason for the dramatic drop from an early summer high of 6,600 weekly detentions is unclear, but it took place almost entirely before the arrival of Texas National Guard troops, which are the biggest part of the $4 million-per-week surge. There have been no discussions of recalling the guardsmen, most of whom only recently got to the area following training.

Rosenthal reports that officials have recalibrated their target numbers, with both McCraw and Dennis Bonnen, the chairman of the House panel looking at the cost of the surge operation, now saying the ultimate goal is to get illegal border crossings to zero.

Democrats view this change skeptically, with at least one arguing that the goal was never fully about securing the border, but rather about giving Gov. Rick Perry an issue to boost his presidential aspirations.

Bonnen further suggested to Rosenthal that McCraw was getting ahead of the political leadership by offering a target goal in the July hearing. "With respect to Col. McCraw, it's not his position to decide when we're done or when it's successful," Bonnen told Rosenthal. "He's doing a great job, and I appreciate all the work that's being done, but that is the responsibility of policymakers."

The Day Ahead

•    A park and statue dedicated to Tim Cole — the first person in the state to receive a posthumous exoneration — will be unveiled at 2 p.m. in Lubbock. Those attending the ceremony include Gov. Rick Perry; Attorney General Greg Abbott; Sen. Leticia Van De Putte, D-San Antonio; Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston; and Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth.

•    The Senate Transportation Committee meets at 9 a.m. in the Capitol Extension to examine the wear and tear on the state's roadways from increased oil and gas exploration and to look at what can be done to curtail uninsured drivers and those not paying tolls. (agenda)

Trib Must-Reads

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The Disappearing "Undue Burden" Standard on Abortion Rights, The New Yorker

Quote to Note

“While our partnership within the state has been paying some amazing dividends, we’re still waiting on Washington to view states as anything other than vassals.”

— Gov. Rick Perry, in a speech to the annual meeting of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (IBTTA)

Today in TribTalk

Why women's rights matter for the environment, by Keith K. Annis and Scheleen Walker

Trib Events for the Calendar

•    2 DAYS TO GO: The Texas Tribune Festival is this weekend — register today!

•    A Conversation With U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, on Sept. 24 at the UTSA Downtown Campus in San Antonio.

•    A Conversation on Demographic Change and the Digital Divide with Mark Strama, former state representative and head of Google Fiber in Austin; state Rep. Larry Gonzales, R-Round Rock; Juanita Budd, executive director of Austin Free-Net; and Don Shirley, executive director of Connected Texas, on Sept. 30 at the LBJ School of Public Affairs in Austin.

•    A Conversation With Kathie Glass, 2014 Libertarian Nominee for Governor, on Oct. 2 at The Austin Club

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Health care Higher education Politics Public education Dan Patrick Dennis Bonnen Greg Abbott Rick Perry Ted Cruz Wendy Davis