Texas Gov. Rick Perry Monday announced the deployment of 1,000 National Guard troops to the border following an incident in which members of Mexican drug cartels allegedly fired shots from a .50-caliber machine gun from the Mexican side of the border into Texas, sending U.S. Border Patrol guards scurrying for cover.
Texas Adjutant General John Nichols said his troops would simply be “referring and deterring” immigrants and not detaining people — though Nichols said the National Guard could if asked.
“We think they’ll come to us and say, ‘Please take us to a Border Patrol station,’” Nichols said at Monday’s news conference in Austin.
Much of the area has been overwhelmed in recent months by tens of thousands of unaccompanied children illegally entering the U.S., but that’s not all that is entering.
Perry said criminals are exploiting the situation for human and drug trafficking.
More than 3,000 Border Patrol agents are working in the region and Perry has repeatedly called on President Obama to send the National Guard to the border. On Monday he said he had grown tired of “lip service” from Washington.
The deployment of the National Guard is expected to unfold over the next 30 days, the Associated Press reported, adding that Democrats and some Texas border sheriffs are criticizing the plan as an ill-conceived “militarization” of the border.
“‘The children fleeing violence in Central America are seeking out Border Patrol agents. They are not trying to evade them. Why would Rick Perry send soldiers to confront these kids?’ U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, told The Monitor, a south Texas newspaper.
At the same time, Perry had come under growing pressure from the conservative wing of his own party to act on his own under Article 1, Section 10, Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution. This clause gives states the right to declare an ‘imminent danger’…and to call up the National Guard.
U.S. Border Patrol agents on the American side of the Rio Grande were forced to take cover Friday night when heavy weaponry was fired at them from the Mexican side of the river, sources told FoxNews.com.
In an interview with WND, William Gheen, president of Americans for Legal Immigration PAC, said he believed Perry’s decision was motivated not only by the gunfire at the border but by “the historic wave of protests across the country this weekend, which included more than 40 locations in Texas alone.”
“My concern, however, is that it will do no good to send National Guardsmen to the border if (human traffickers) are still shipping and smuggling illegals into the U.S.,” Gheen said.
“We need the National Guard to be given authority to arrest and detain near the border so they can be sent back.”
It won’t be the first time the National Guard has been sent to the border with Mexico.
In May 2006, President George W. Bush ordered about 6,000 guardsmen to the border as part of Operation Jumpstart, but they were not used in any law enforcement capacity. Rather, they were used to provide security, intelligence and help construct a border fence.
“We’re going to find out what Gov. Perry has in mind,” Gheen said. “Bush sent the National Guard to the border, and they were told not to have guns, and many of them ended up washing trucks for the Border Patrol. So it depends what you do with the Guard.”
Gheen said the guardsmen “should be placed in front of our Border Patrol, not behind, and they should have guns with live ammunition in them and they should be free to do whatever they need to do to defend this nation as the Constitution requires.”
Another question that arises from the border clash with drug cartel members Friday is where did the high-caliber weapons come from?
Among the weapons shipped into Mexico by the Obama administration during its “Fast and Furious” operation were .50-caliber Barrett machine guns and AK-47 assault rifles.
Gheen noted that at least five different agencies, with taxpayer funds, bought thousands of assault weapons that were transported to the cartels.
“Our Border Patrol could definitely come under fire from these weapons that were part of Obama’s Fast and Furious efforts,” he said.
The weapons were fired Friday at the U.S. side of the riverbank in the area of the Rincon Peninsula across the Rio Grande from Reynosa, Mexico, at about 8:30 p.m., sources said. Bullets ricocheted into an area where Border Patrol agents were positioned, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, told FoxNews.com.
Border Patrol sources confirmed Gohmert’s account and said the shots may have been fired by .50-caliber weapons.
“We don’t have any armor that can stop a .50-caliber round, so our Border Patrol agents had to take cover when the rounds were ricocheting around them,” said Gohmert, who has been in the area for the last week to get a first-hand look at the border crisis.
Sources said they believe the gunfire came from members of Mexican drug cartels, which include former military members trained to shoot that type of weaponry.
At a press conference called by a coalition of tea party and other groups last week, Perry, and Attorney General Greg Abbott, were the targets of criticism for failing to act.
The speakers demanded that Perry and Abbott direct their powers at Texas elected officials to protect the border and call up the Texas National Guard, as well as a separate demand for a special session of the Legislature to address this issue.
“We have all reached the conclusion that Governor Perry needs to stop asking Washington to come save us,” said Grassroots America Executive Director JoAnn Fleming in her opening remarks, as reported by Breitbart. “Washington is not on its way to save us. We’re asking Governor Perry and Attorney General Greg Abbott…to work together to invoke Article I, Section 10, Clause 3 of the United States Constitution.”
As the crisis at the border shows no signs of abating, the issue of illegal immigration promises to be a top concern in primary elections this summer and the general election in November.
On Monday, ALIPAC and Overpasses for America announced they will conduct a new round of protests against illegal immigration on Saturday, Aug. 2. But unlike the protests that occurred this weekend, the Aug. 2 rallies will more narrowly focus on states that have Republican primaries scheduled for Aug. 5-7, said Gheen.
Gheen said districts within the primary states will be targeted, “because we only have 13 days to work on this.”
“Our mission is to bring attention to illegal immigration to the remaining Republican primaries, and we’re naming names,” Gheen said.
He named Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn., who voted for the Senate bill last year, S.744, that would grant amnesty to an estimated 12 million illegal aliens, and “allies of Eric Cantor,” the Republican former House majority leader who whose stunning primary defeat in June was attributed to his support for amnesty.
Gheen said the protests would take place Aug. 2 in front of the offices of the targeted congressmen. The protesters will rally in front of the offices of Rep. Fred Upton, R-Michigan, Rep. Justin Amash, R-Michigan, Rep. David Reichert, R-Washington, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Washington. Alexander’s office in Tennessee will also be targeted.
WND has contacted the governors’ offices of New Mexico and Arizona to ask if they are considering taking the same action as Perry and calling in their states’ National Guard units to help seal the border.
Gov. Susana Martinez in New Mexico “has been monitoring the situation along the border very closely, including visiting and touring the federal government’s make-shift detention center in Artesia, N.M., on Saturday,” said her spokesman Enrique Knell in an email.
“While there are no immediate plans to deploy the National Guard to the border on a state mission, the Governor has repeatedly said she does believe there is a role for the National Guard in protecting our border. In fact, they did play such a role through the Jump Start program until 2008 when Congress cut funding for the mission, a decision she certainly disagreed with.”
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer’s office did not responded to WND’s email and phone call Monday.
In June, Perry announced that the state would steer another $1.3 million each week to the Department of Public Safety to assist in border security through at least the end of the year.
Human smuggling of Central American and other foreign nationals into the U.S. is big business, generating $6.6 billion a year for human traffickers known as “coyotes,” reported the Associated Press Monday.