Perry Offers Details On Border Plan - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

01/25/07 - Austin, Texas

Perry Offers Details On Border Plan

Gov. Rick Perry gave more details Wednesday on his $100 million plan to crack down on drug and human smuggling along the Mexican border by enlisting hundreds of armed National Guard troops and thousands more agents from other state and federal agencies.

Perry described "Operation Wrangler" as a second phase of an initiative to use state resources to fill security holes left by the federal government.

"An unsecure border affects the entire state of Texas and our nation as a whole," said Perry, who announced the plan Monday. "Until the federal government brings the necessary resource to bear, Texas will continue to do all we can to secure the border and protect our citizens."

Perry said the plan piggybacks on last February's Operation Rio Grande, which he said helped border sheriffs reduce crime by 60 percent by helping them buy more equipment and pay officers overtime. Since October 2005, the state has spent $20 million on border security efforts.

Operation Wrangler will send 604 National Guard troops throughout the state, he said, "covering the coast, the rivers and the interstate highway system."

The troops will work with agencies totaling more than 6,800 personnel working for 11 "joint operational intelligence centers," all guided by a control operations center in Austin. Five centers were to be at Border Patrol offices along the border, and others were to be along smuggling corridors.

The guard members will operate in platoons accompanied by a Border Patrol member. A Border Patrol spokesman referred all queries about the program to the governor's office.

Perry said state and federal agencies have been much more cooperative since the 2001 terrorist attacks, which he said changed the old atmosphere of "turf protection."

He said the operation will put more than 2,200 vehicles, 48 helicopters, 33 fixed-wing aircraft and 35 patrol ships to the task of catching and deterring smugglers.

Along with the state and federal law-enforcement agencies, others in the operation include the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Civil Air Patrol, the Texas Cattlemen's Association, the Railroad Police, the U.S. Postal Service and University of Texas Center for Space Research.

McAllen police Chief Victor Rodriguez, who appeared with Perry on Wednesday, said he was enthusiastic about the program.

"This feels like Team Texas," he said.

But Brownsville police Chief Carlos Garcia told the San Antonio Express-News he was uncomfortable with the program.

"What are we actually going to be doing other than putting officers out on the street, incurring overtime with no special goals in mind other than what we want them to do?" he said.

Larry Gray, one of the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association "rangers" certified to do certain law enforcement operations, said member ranchers would help by sending intelligence, such as where smuggling operations were spotted, something they already did.

A spokeswoman for the Mexican consulate in McAllen said Mexico was taking a wait-and-see approach with the program but was concerned.

"We do not believe that more military and more militarization on the border is going to prevent migration," said Miriam Medel Garcia. "We need to work on an agreement based on the possibility of shared responsibility."

Story courtesy of the Associated Press.

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