Abbott Again Presses Federal Government on Border Security

Amid reports of a spike in illegal border crossings, Gov. Greg Abbott is again pushing the federal government to fortify the Texas-Mexico border, demanding "immediate and bold action" from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Gov. Greg Abbott at the Texas State Prayer Breakfast in Austin on May 4, 2015.

*Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comment from DHS.

Amid reports of a spike in illegal border crossings, Gov. Greg Abbott is again pushing the federal government to fortify the Texas-Mexico border, demanding "immediate and bold action" from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

On Wednesday, Abbott sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson requesting that 250 additional Border Patrol agents be sent to Texas to combat the crossings, which increased in August by more than half over a year prior. Abbott also asked for five aerostats — blimp-like aircrafts — to help law enforcement officials combat drug smuggling.

In addition, Abbott wants to know more about the conditions under which people in the country illegally are released to either family members of private groups across the state. A fourth request by the governor is for continued collaboration with federal agencies on the operation of two detention centers in Texas.

In August, the Border Patrol arrested almost 10,000 immigrant families and unaccompanied children trying to illegally cross the border, a 52 percent increase over the same month in 2014. The White House has called the increase a "concerning" and "surprising uptick," noting that the numbers typically decline in August due to the weather. 

The increase comes a year after tens of thousands of unaccompanied children from Central America showed up at the border in what was called a humanitarian crisis. That wave led then-Gov. Rick Perry to dispatch the National Guard to the Rio Grande Valley.

Department of Homeland Security spokesman S.Y. Lee said in a statement that the agency will respond directly to Abbott. And Lee said total apprehensions across the southern border "remain at near-historic lows."

"Over the last 15 years, our government has invested more in border security than at any point in the history of this nation," Lee said. "Apprehensions on the southern border, an indicator of total attempts to cross the border, [have] dramatically declined... For FY 2015, apprehensions are expected to be down significantly to approximately 330,000— only one time since 1972 has that number been lower."

But he added that "conditions related to the economy and violence in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala have not improved and continue to serve as push factors leading to migration northward." He said U.S. Customs and Border Protection is renewing a public awareness campaign in Central American and Mexican communities on the dangers of the journey north. 

In the letter, Abbott emphasized that Texas is doing its part to secure the border, citing the $800 million plan he signed into law in June. Among other things, the plan calls for 250 new Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to be stationed in the area of the border.

"Texas will continue to be assertive in securing our border," Abbott wrote. "But given recent reports that our southern border has become more porous — not less, it is clearer than ever that the federal government must act to reverse the tide of this mounting crisis."