By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) – Texas Governor Rick Perry said on Monday he planned to send 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the Mexican border to boost security during a surge in illegal immigration by children, a move that could increase pressure on President Barack Obama.
Perry, seen as a possible Republican candidate in the 2016 presidential race, said the guard troops were needed because the flood of children crossing from Mexico had pushed federal border protection to its limits.
“The price of inaction is too high for Texas to pay,” Perry told a news conference.
The governor’s announcement came just days before Obama plans meet with the leaders of Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador on Friday to discuss cooperation on the influx of child migrants from Central America.
Perry said the National Guard would help the state’s surveillance and deploy some of its assets, such as aircraft, to monitor the border. He give no indication the Texas National Guard would work directly with U.S. Border Patrol.
During the nine months ending June 30, more than 57,000 children were detained at the U.S.-Mexico border, most of them from Central America, and double last year’s count, according to U.S. government data.
Perry said federal resources had been diverted to take care of those children, creating a vacuum for criminal cartels to step up operations.
Perry previously called on Obama to send 1,000 National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border.
Before the news conference, White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters: “If this deployment does move forward, it is the kind of step that we would like to see be coordinated and integrated with the ongoing response there.”
Tony Payan, director of the Mexico Center at Rice University’s Baker Institute in Houston, said Perry’s plan was more about politics than security because the state’s guard troops would play supporting roles on the vast border and likely be deployed for a short period of time.
“The operational impact is limited. This forces one to think that this is a political move by Rick Perry,” he said.
The White House and lawmakers have called the influx a humanitarian crisis, and the Obama administration has requested an additional $3.7 billion from Congress to address the situation.
Republicans, who say Obama’s immigration policies have encouraged the flood of children, have so far balked at approving the money.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton in Washington; Editing by Susan Heavey, Doina Chiacu and Peter Cooney)