State Representative Drew Darby conceded that despite the state spending billions on border security, there isn’t much the state government can do to stem the tide of illegal immigrants across the Texas-Mexico border.
Darby said that in the last session, the Texas Legislature funded 250 additional Department of Public Safety positions, increased the budget to the Texas Parks and Wildlife, and bought four boats for the Rio Grande. “Our Texas Navy has more facilities available to them. They are well-armed. And they patrol, and they pick them (the illegal aliens) up,” he said at last Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the Concho Valley Republican Women.
Darby has made several trips down to the Rio Grande Valley, particularly when Governor Rick Perry activated the Texas National Guard to assist in securing the border. “It takes 21 soldiers to man one observation post,” Darby said. “And you know where they set up? In a Walmart parking lot!” Darby said it looked like a deer blind watching over Walmart shoppers.
In February, the Austin American-Statesman reported that 200 Texas National Guard troops cost the state $2.5 million per month. The number of guardsmen on the border surged to about 1,000 in 2014, however.
In a February 2015 Legislative Budget Board presentation to the Texas House Appropriations Committee, the state reported that it has spent $1.339 billion in border security since 2008. The bulk of that money has gone to the DPS who saw its two-year budget nearly quadruple from $108 million for border security in 2008 to $408.2 million anticipated for the 2016-17 budget cycle (see page 66 of this *pdf).
“Why can’t we just stop them from coming across the border?” one Republican woman in the audience asked.
“That’s not the problem,” Darby said. “We’re picking them up, but we can’t do anything with them except deliver them to the federal detention center.”
Darby said that after newly arrived illegal immigrants wade to the northern bank of the Rio Grande, there is a sign posted that reads, “The buses are at the top of the hill.” And they promise every illegal immigrant that they will arrive at the federal detention center with a bottle of water.
“So our DPS is standing there at the door, guiding them to the buses,” Darby said.
Once at the federal detention center, the illegal immigrants are processed differently, depending upon if they are a family unit or a single illegal immigrant traveling alone. “If you’re a family unit, you are allowed to stay,” Darby said. The solo immigrant is sent back across the border immediately.
“Let me tell you, there’s a lot of family units being formed on that bus ride from the border to the detention center,” Darby said. “I’ve watched them being formed.” If you are a family unit, after processing through the detention center, you are allowed to go anywhere in the country, Darby said.
Family units are processed and given a court date in a federal court that nearly all will ignore.
The positive outcome of the extra money the state is spending on border security is number of checkpoints that have been set up. “That’s where the money and the guns are headed south of the border,” Darby said.
Darby said that the legislature funded four additional prosecutor units to handle the increase in apprehensions on the border in the last session.
“Until we make changes at the federal level, there’s not a whole lot we as Texans can do about this,” Darby said.
Photo credit: The DPS Patrol Boat pulls away from the dock and heads off down the Rio Grande River. (David Martin Davies TPR News tpr.org)