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“A Good Deal For Him”: Rick Perry Is Basically Charging Texas Taxpayers $4 Million A Week For His Presidential Ambitions

On Thursday, the first Texas National Guard troops arrived at the U.S. border as part of Operation Strong Safety, Gov. Rick Perry’s (R) unilateral border-security mission. And before rallying the border-bound troops at Camp Swift outside Austin on Wednesday, Perry had spent part of the week in Iowa, making not-so-subtle intimations that he will be coming back a lot before the first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses in 2016.

It’s hard not to see those events as intimately connected. And sure, sending the National Guard to the border will probably get Perry some extra votes in the Iowa caucuses. But Iowa won’t be footing the bill.

Perry says that he had to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Rio Grande Valley because the federal government isn’t doing enough to keep out “narco-terrorists” and illegal immigrants. The influx of 63,000 unaccompanied children since October, which has slowed significantly in the past few months, is a “side issue,” Perry said on Wednesday. “You now are the tip of the spear protecting Americans from these cartels” and “their tentacles of crime, of fear,” he told about 90 National Guard members, specifically mentioning the danger drug traffickers posed to Iowa, South Carolina, and a state that doesn’t have an early presidential caucus or primary, North Carolina.

Democrats are openly and directly accusing Perry of sending down the National Guard for no other reason than his presidential ambitions. Perry took umbrage at that suggestion: “The idea that what we’re doing is politics versus protecting the people of Texas, the people of this country is just false on its face.”

But what other explanation is there, really? The border crisis that has grabbed everyone’s attention is a “side issue” that Perry insists he isn’t sending the troops to address. And the 63,000 young, mostly Central American migrants really are a problem for Texas — but a humanitarian problem, not a military one. The U.S. Border Patrol is struggling to house and care for these children, and some number of them will surely end up in Texas schools and social services programs.

The $17 million to $18 million a month that Perry is spending to fund his open-ended border operation looks shakier when you consider what the National Guard will be doing: Watching. The troops will have the authority to detain, but not arrest, immigrants. But mostly they are going to be manning watchtowers and truck-mounted surveillance equipment.

The Associated Press spoke with Rodolfo Espinoza, the police chief of Hidalgo, a Texas town a mile from the border where the first wave of National Guard troops landed. The two police towers that the troops took up watch in Thursday “have cameras that can pan the area and record activity,” the AP‘s Christopher Sherman noted, though Espinoza said it’s more useful to have people in the towers. “It is good to have them,” Espinoza said, adding, “I think the only way you could secure the river is if every 10 yards you had someone standing there. It’s impossible.”

So who was crying for military reinforcements? The border-county sheriffs wanted more money, not National Guard troops. And at a July 29 hearing on the cost of Perry’s operation, the heads of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and Texas National Guard — Steve McCraw and Maj. Gen. John Nichols, respectively — said they had not recommended that the governor deploy the National Guard, though, as the Houston Chronicle puts it, they were “appreciative of his idea.”

Now, that’s not to say nobody wants the National Guard at the border. The idea is very popular among Republicans nationwide, especially conservative and Tea Party–aligned Republicans who vote in primary elections. In a mid-July CNN/ORC poll, for example, 76 percent of Republicans said the main focus of U.S. immigration policy should be “stopping the flow of illegal immigrants into the U.S. and for deporting those already here,” versus 49 percent of independents and 35 percent of Democrats.

In fact, a few days before Perry announced his National Guard deployment, a group of conservative and Tea Party activists met in Austin and publicly criticized him for his inaction, specifically urging the governor to send troops to the border. It’s easy to see how a politician with his eye on 2016 might leap at the opportunity to please this group, even if his “solution” actually does nothing to truly address America’s immigration problem. It’s the optics that matter.

But back home, Texas Republicans are concerned about how Perry is paying for this. The governor redirected $38 million from a DPS allocation for radio equipment to finance the operation; $7 million of that is to pay for the beefed-up DPS presence in the valley and $31 million is for the National Guard deployment.

That money is expected to run out sometime in October, and Perry’s plan to get the federal government to pay for his operation seems a little quixotic, given that Congress is doing almost nothing these days, and will probably do even less in the run-up to the crucial midterm elections in November. That means Texas taxpayers are on the hook.

“The border has got to be secured — we’ve got to stop this,” said state Sen. Jane Nelson (R), the chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, who doesn’t oppose the deployment. But “month by month, we’re draining state resources that should go to education, should go to highways, should go to water, and we can’t do it forever.”

It should be noted that Texas taxpayers also pay for Perry’s trips to Iowa (and Israel, and the Bahamas), but even at the height of his last run for president, in 2011 and early 2012, the bill for his security detail was only $400,000 a month. (A ruling this week by state Attorney General Greg Abbott — the GOP nominee to replace Perry as governor — means Texans will no longer get a detailed accounting of Perry’s security expenses, despite a 2011 state law mandating their release.)

Look, $18 million a month — or $216 million a year, if extended — is a small slice of the state’s $100 billion annual budget. But if Rick Perry’s low-tax, low-service Texas is so frugal that it can’t find enough money for things like transportation infrastructure and education — things that are important to the state’s continuing economic growth — it’s hard to argue that Operation Strong Safety is much of a good deal for anybody but Rick Perry.


By: Peter Weber, Senior Editor, The Week, August 15, 2014

August 16, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis, Rick Perry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Abandoning The Pretense Of Seriousness”: GOP Motivations Have Nothing To Do With Governing

The new House Republican leadership team, facing its first real test yesterday, failed miserably. They backed a bill that ostensibly addresses the humanitarian crisis at the U.S./Mexico border, but the bill died before it even reached the floor. Rank-and-file Republican lawmakers had rejected their own party’s bill.

But instead of leaving town for Congress’ five-week break, GOP lawmakers met this morning to work something out, and by all appearances, Speaker John Boehner and his team effectively told right-wing members, “Tell us what you want and we’ll say yes.” The result is a new bill, set to pass this afternoon.

House Republicans are taking a second shot at passing a border funding package Friday after party leaders failed to whip enough support among conservatives and were forced to pull legislation Thursday. The new version of the bill will add $35 million to offer states that dispatch National Guard service members to the border, adding up to $694 million in emergency funding relief to cope with the flood of unaccompanied minors streaming into the United States.

Unwilling to leave Washington without first passing a border package, lawmakers aim to vote on the revised legislation Friday along with a separate vote on legislation to undercut laws protecting young undocumented immigrants.

To appreciate what the House GOP has come up with, note that Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa) and Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.), two of the fiercest opponents of the bill that died yesterday, think this new proposal is awesome.

[Update: King told Roll Call, “The changes brought into this are ones I’ve developed and advocated for over the past two years. It’s like I ordered it off the menu.”]

The agreement conservative Republicans reached with very conservative Republicans can charitably be described as a bad joke. This legislation wouldn’t address the humanitarian crisis in any meaningful way, and really doesn’t even try.

The Washington Post’s report conceded the legislation “would do little to immediately solve the crisis along the U.S.-Mexico border but would allow [Republican lawmakers] to go home and tell voters that they did what they could.”

In other words, the post-policy House majority is putting on a little show this afternoon. Even marginally informed observers will recognize this as pointless theater, but GOP members won’t care because the point of the exercise will be to create a talking point – one that no fair-minded person will believe anyway.

Some of the details are still elusive, but reports suggest that the right was satisfied when Republican leaders agreed to advance provisions that not only support deportations of Dream Act kids, but also blocks current Dreamers who are already benefiting from the Obama administration’s DACA policy from renewing their participation in the program.

As a practical matter, this makes the bill more of a far-right fantasy than an actual plan. The motivations behind it have nothing to do with governing. Indeed, the very idea is laughable under the circumstances – it’s not as if the Speaker’s office has been in communication with Senate Democrats and the White House, looking for some common ground on a proposal that could become law.

Rather, Boehner, bruised and embarrassed, gave up. The goal this morning was to craft a new plan that makes far-right extremists happy. And that’s precisely what they’ve done.

Of course, the charade would be easier to pull off it weren’t quite so transparent. Republicans will spend the next five weeks saying, “See? We did our jobs!” it will be painfully obvious that their claims are as misleading as they are demonstrably ridiculous. For GOP lawmakers to have done their jobs, they would have had to agree to a serious proposal that related in some meaningful way to the task at hand.

That is clearly not what’s happened.

As for the road ahead, Sahil Kapur reports, “The plan is to have two votes: the first one is on the supplemental and tougher border language to swiftly send home children coming from Central American countries. If that passes, there’ll be a second vote on the bill to end the Obama administration’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and stop the president from granting legal status to anyone in the U.S. illegally.”

If Republicans get on planes this evening feeling good about themselves and their accomplishments, they’re not paying close enough attention. They’ve become the Cruz/Bachmann/King Party – which is exactly the opposite of what party leaders had in mind at the start of this Congress.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, August 1, 2014

August 3, 2014 Posted by | GOP, House Republicans, Humanitarian Crisis | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dereliction Of Duty”: In The Military, One Gets Court Martialed; In Congress, One Gets Re-Elected

According to the Brookings Institution there are some 47,000 unaccompanied children in the USA from Central America, almost all of whom arrived this year. There is no question that the numbers have overwhelmed an already out-of-date system and there is no question, or should not be any question, about our responsibility to care for these children while our legal process takes its course and they are either deported or granted asylum.

But now Congress, which has been the most grid-locked Congress in history, is about to adjourn for the rest of the summer without taking the actions necessary to assure that these children are cared for and that their legal process is managed properly and efficiently.

This nation has always been built on compromise. This nation became a beacon to the entire world because we had a legislative process that worked. This nation grew great and strong because we elected people to “GOVERN” and to “REPRESENT THE BEST INTERESTS OF ALL AMERICANS.” Now all of this has been thrown out the window and our system is absolutely derelict in its duty to our people, our principles and our heritage.

Maybe I am a heretic — I have been called worse — but I do not care if you are a Democrat or Republican, I do not care if you are an arch liberal or a Tea Party conservative, there are 47,000 children languishing in this country without proper care, without beds to sleep in, without medical attention or schooling. Now, 435 Representatives and 100 Senators are leaving for vacation where they will party, sun themselves, drink too much and eat some of the best food available…all while these 47,000 children languish.

Shame on all of you!

You have abdicated your right to be called “legislators.” You should be called “abdicators” for that is what you are.

In the military one gets court martialed for dereliction of duty, but in Congress one gets re-elected for another term. It is time for the American people on all sides of the aisle to speak up and tell these overpaid abdicators that they dare not leave Washington until they take care of these children!


By: Harry Leibowitz, World of Children Award Co-Founder & Board Chair; The Huffington Post Blog, July 29, 2014



July 30, 2014 Posted by | Congress, Humanitarian Crisis, Immigrants | , , , , | Leave a comment

“Why The Border Crisis Is A Myth”: Another Justification To Play To Anti-Immigrant Voters In The Fall Elections

To hear the national news media tell the story, you would think my city, El Paso, and others along the Texas-Mexico border were being overrun by children — tens of thousands of them, some with their mothers, arriving from Central America in recent months, exploiting an immigration loophole to avoid deportation and putting a fatal strain on border state resources.

There’s no denying the impact of this latest immigration wave or the need for more resources. But there’s no crisis. Local communities like mine have done an amazing job of assisting these migrants.

Rather, the myth of a “crisis” is being used by politicians to justify ever-tighter restrictions on immigration, play to anti-immigrant voters in the fall elections and ignore the reasons so many children are coming here in the first place.

In the last month, about 2,500 refugees have been brought to El Paso after crossing the border elsewhere. The community quickly came together to support the women and children and Annunciation House, the organization coordinating the effort.

Contrary to the heated pronouncements, this is nothing we haven’t seen before. Groups of refugees arrive by plane and are processed by Immigration and Customs Enforcement. When they are released, Annunciation House takes them to a shelter where they get a shower, a place to sleep, meals and even health care — all provided by volunteers and private donations.

The families of the refugees also help, often paying for travel costs and taking them into their homes. The refugees then move on, to Florida, Georgia, New York or elsewhere.

While the numbers of refugees arriving in El Paso are a fraction of the number arriving in McAllen, in southern Texas, the chain of events is generally the same. Like El Paso, South Texas is not the permanent destination for these refugees. And the response from McAllen’s citizens has been generous, too.

The same can’t be said of our politicians. What we are hearing from Austin and Washington is an almost Pavlovian response to immigration concerns. My governor, Rick Perry, a Republican, announced this week that he was sending 1,000 National Guard soldiers, at a cost of $12 million a month, to bolster the border.

And despite President Obama’s efforts to work with Central American leaders to address the root causes of the migration, his recently announced request for $3.7 billion, supposedly to deal with these new migrants, contains yet more border security measures: Almost $40 million would go to drone surveillance, and nearly 30 percent of it is for transportation and detention.

In Texas, state legislators and the Department of Public Safety are planning to spend an additional $30 million over six months to create a “surge” of state law enforcement resources, an expenditure that some in our state’s Capitol would like to see made permanent.

The costs are significant. Every day we detain an undocumented child immigrant, it costs Immigration and Customs Enforcement — i.e., the taxpayer — $259 per person, significantly more than we spend to educate a child in a middle-class school district.

The irony is that this cash-intensive strategy comes from leaders who consistently underfund health care, transportation and education. And they ignore the crucial fact that children crossing our borders aren’t trying to sneak around law enforcement: They are running to law enforcement.

What is most alarming, however, is the attempt to erode rights and protections created by intelligent, humane legislation.

The debate is centered on the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act, a law signed by President George W. Bush to provide legal and humanitarian protections to unaccompanied migrant children from countries other than Mexico or Canada. The act passed with bipartisan support, yet the “crisis” is now being cited by some of the same legislators who supported the law as a reason to repeal or change it.

This effort to take away rights that were granted when there was significantly less anti-immigrant fervor isn’t just shortsighted and expensive, it’s un-American. We can debate the wisdom of providing greater protection to Central American children than to Mexican children, but there can be no doubt that giving safe haven to a child facing violence in a country that cannot protect its most vulnerable citizens is what a civilized country, with the resources we possess, should do.

Our border communities understand this. I hope the rest of the country, including our leaders in Austin and Washington, can follow our lead.


By: Veronica Escobar, Op-Ed Contributor, The New York Times, July 25, 2014

July 28, 2014 Posted by | Border Crisis, Humanitarian Crisis, Immigration, Refugees | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Matter Of Human Conscience”: The Backlash To The Backlash On Border Children

Perhaps not since that fleeting moment of national unity in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy nearly 13 years ago have so many diverse faith traditions, from Catholic bishops to Quakers, from evangelical Christians to liberal Jews, come together with such genuine fervor on any public issue.

The “backlash to the backlash” on the U.S. border crisis has now begun.

Tens of thousands of unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Central America have recently slipped into the United States seeking refuge in a horrific storm. This many young kids don’t leave home on a long, desperate, parentless journey for no reason. Many are escaping gang brutality, instigated partly by hard-core drug lords, who’ve left U.S. prisons and returned home to stir up more trouble and intimidation.

It’s difficult to imagine what these children anticipated upon entering the United States. Almost no new arrival is ever really prepared for the whirlwind and sheer crassness of American culture.

But they can’t have been expecting the visceral vitriol that greeted some of these young refugees. The boiling-over rage that coarses through so much of our debate on public issues abruptly confronted these frightened children — unsophisticated strangers in a strange land. Anti-immigration activists angrily opposed even establishing shelters for vulnerable kids far from home.

There was an apparent inability to distinguish legitimate public discourse over immigration policy (long ginned up on all sides for political gain) from an actual humanitarian crisis involving children draped under Red Cross blankets, right here, right now. Emma Lazarus’ torch seemed to be temporarily extinguished.

But a different view was expressed last week by Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who got audibly choked up delivering a public announcement that his state would shelter hundreds of children while they’re being processed. A military base on Cape Cod is one venue being considered.

A state homeland security official later said he anticipated the children would be between six- and 17-years-old staying an average of 35 days. Most would likely be released to relatives in the United States, he explained, while others would eventually face deportation.

Said Governor Patrick: “My faith teaches that if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him but rather love him as yourself.” And this was from a publicly secular governor, hardly known for wearing his private beliefs on his sleeve. For Deval Patrick, nearing the end of his eight years in office, it appears to be simply a matter of human conscience. “It bears remembering they’re children and they’re alone.”

Yet his proposal has met with a roar of protest from some quarters — including residents of towns neighboring the base, who attended a meeting of Bourne, Massachusetts local officials this week. One woman, living in Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, held a banner that read: “Send them back. They broke the law.”

At Patrick’s public statement, he was flanked by Boston-area clergy. The faith community nationwide, which should be the natural habitat for discussion of basic decency and human compassion, is now speaking up with remarkable unity over how the United States should handle the refugee crisis.

Last week, New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan wrote: “I watched with shame as an angry mob in southern California surrounded buses filled with frightened, hungry, homeless immigrants, shaking fists, and shouting for them to “get out!'”

As reported yesterday in The New York Times: “‘We’re talking about whether we’re going to stand at the border and tell children who are fleeing a burning building to go back inside,’ said Rabbi Asher Knight of Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, who said leaders of more than 100 faith organizations in his city had met last week to discuss how to help.”

Believers as diverse as Unitarians and Lutherans are coming together on this moral question. “The anger directed toward vulnerable children is deplorable and disgusting,” said Russell Moore, an official of the Southern Baptist Convention, who this week accompanied fellow churchmen to visit refugee centers in Texas.

“The first thing is to make sure we understand these are not issues, these are persons. These children are made in the image of God, and we ought to respond to them with compassion, not with fear.”


By: David Freudberg, The Huffington Post Blog, July 24, 2014

July 25, 2014 Posted by | Faith, Humanitarian Crisis, Refugees | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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