WESLACO, Texas - Governor Greg Abbott has pledged to send more than 1,400 National Guard troops to the Texas-U.S. border. He says more than half of the troops are now on duty.
The state began sending additional troops after the White House announced plans last week to use the guard to assist along the border.
Even now, Gov. Abbott says they are awaiting additional instructions from the Department of Defense. But their main task is supporting border patrol, including by improving support in the air.
At a National Guard armory in Weslaco in the Rio Grande Valley, the troops are ready. Governor Abbott says they are energized. He met with the Texas National Guard and Border Patrol leaders on Thursday for a briefing.
Right now, about 762 guard members from Texas are already on the border. The plan is to expand that number by 300 each week until it gets to near 1400.
The plan is for them to provide support, including in Lakota helicopters. It will be added eyes and ears for Border Patrol that will make the arrests.
In the Rio Grande Valley alone, Abbott says apprehensions have spiked to 450 a day.
“The president was right to call for this action now before this situation got out of control,” he said.
President Donald Trump signed a proclamation a weekend ago ordering National Guard troops to the border.
Even though border crossings are down over the last decade, the administration says they are up in recent months. Roughly 4,000 National Guard members are deploying across the U.S.-Mexico border, including in Texas.
“Stunningly, and disturbingly, there's been an increase of more than 200 percent of MS-13 coming across the border,” Abbott said.
But immigration advocates have criticized the move. And some along the border, including business leaders, say it's not as bad as politicians are making it seem. They worry about the economic harm the deployment sends.
“Perception becomes reality, and so that's a big concern for us,” said Keith Patridge with McAllen Economic Development Corp. “It’s the message that gets sent when things like this happen.”
Governor Abbott says he has received calls from governors of other states who want to offer their National Guard members to take part in the operation. He didn't say at Thursday’s news conference whether he would take any of those governors up on that offer.