The only significant criminal justice priority in today's State of the State speech, reports the Fort Worth Star Telegram, was when Gov. Perry "called for $135 million to strengthen the state-led enforcement effort to confront what he called a continued threat from 'brazen transnational gangs' tied to Mexican drug cartels." I didn't see that number in the prepared remarks, but here's the portion of the speech related to border security and immigration:
In these times of global unrest and porous borders, security remains a top priority, especially in light of Washington’s ongoing failure to provide the resources necessary to secure our border, or implement a sensible immigration policy.There's much to dispute about the Governor's presentation of border realities. Independent analyses contradict his claims of massive drops in border crime; in fact, the border has always been, statistically, one of the safer parts of the state. And most economists agree illegal immigration declined because of boosted federal enforcement combined with a tanking housing market, not because of Texas' grants to border sheriffs, which included a sheriff who was allegedly on the payroll of the Gulf cartel.
I’m hopeful that my fellow border governor from Arizona will bring a better approach in her new role as Secretary of Homeland Security.
However, until we see results, Texas will continue filling the leadership void created by Washington DC and investing in the safety of our citizens with our own border security effort.
From 2005 until September 2007, my office cobbled together roughly $38 million which we used to ramp up security along our border.
Based on the success of these efforts, you invested $110 million in Operation Border Star in 2007.
In doing so, you not only funded more personnel, but also provided assets like aircraft and patrol boats, as well as better technology for communications, data management and coordinated efforts.
Joining us today are representatives of the team protecting our border. Will you please stand and be recognized?
They represent the hardworking men and women who work together to fight crime, including the Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition, the Brownsville Police Department, the Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas Military Forces, and the U.S. Border Patrol
Thank you for working so hard to keep Texas safer. As a result of your efforts and their deterrent effect, illegal alien apprehensions in Texas have dropped 47% since 2005.
Crime has also fallen as much as 65% in areas that smuggling cartels previously treated as their personal playground.
Those are signs of great improvement, but we need to keep the heat on by renewing funds for our border efforts, especially in light of the growing drug and gang-related violence in Mexico.
It is already spilling into communities across the state in the form of increasingly brazen transnational gangs.
Because we have seriously hindered the Mexican drug cartels’ ability to move contraband across the border, they are relying with increasing frequency on these unprincipled gangs to do their dirty work.
Originating in foreign countries and taking shape in our prisons, these gangs have been radiating outward into our towns, schools and neighborhoods, applying terror tactics to build their influence.
Joining us here today are State Troopers John Cox and Chad Foster, who were recently on the receiving end of gunfire while protecting our state from those threats, including gang members. Would you please stand and be recognized?
Gentlemen, thank you for standing between the law-abiding citizens of our state and those who would do them harm.
I also want to thank Senator Carona for his efforts to bring attention to the serious threat these gangs pose to our state.
I agree it is time to act and believe we should devote the necessary resources, just under $32 million, to properly address this gang threat head-on, in communities across the state.
These funds would be used to pay more officers, provide better coordination of multi-force efforts and fund prosecutions for gang-related offenses.
As we continue to strengthen our border, we must also consider the essential role that federal immigration policy, or the lack thereof, plays in the safety of our citizens and integrity of our state.
After revelations that a Dallas man had set up a cottage industry procuring Texas driver licenses for illegal aliens hailing from countries around the world, I am an even stronger supporter of the DPS initiative to issue specialized, vertical driver licenses, to identify those who have overstayed their visa.
I also support an end to the notion of sanctuary cities. Local government sends the wrong message when they pick and choose what laws they want their peace officers to enforce.
I believe we should also require the same identification procedure for voting that we require for voter registration. I commend Lt. Governor Dewhurst for his longstanding leadership on this issue.
A democracy without proper protections against voter fraud cannot preserve the public trust.
We should also track the citizenship status of those receiving state-funded services so we can get our hands around the financial impact of Washington’s failure to handle the immigration challenge.
Some may oppose these efforts, but they are commonsense approaches to protecting our citizens’ lives and resources, as well as our state’s integrity.
Although we are maintaining a more secure border and preparing to combat the growing gang threat in our cities, there is nothing we can do to divert the storms that hammer our coast.
I also don't understand what he means about local governments that "pick and choose what laws they want their peace officers to enforce." It's federal law that prohibits local law enforcement from arresting people for civil immigration violations, not some local mandate.
Border security topics took up a big portion of the Governor's speech, so it appears to be a significant priority for him, as it was in 2007. I'm guessing that in the current budget climate, though, some legislators might look askance at spending another nine figures on border security grants that recent reports say generated little crime fighting bang for the buck.