Texas Gov. Rick Perry Thursday called for a temporary militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border to deal with a surge of unaccompanied children entering the country illegally, creating both a humanitarian and national security crisis.
"Secure this border once and for all," the Republican testified Thursday at a congressional field hearing in South Texas.
Perry said the influx has "strained border resources that were already insufficient to the task at hand," and as a result, "the border between the U.S. and Mexico is less secure today than at any time in the recent past…"
He said Texas expects to spend an extra $1.3 million a week through the end of the year to beef up law-enforcement efforts to deal with the crisis, on top of $500 million that he said Texas has spent since 2005 to help secure the border.
Perry called for deploying 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to assist with immigration enforcement while more U.S. Border Patrol agents are trained. He also requested every illegal entrant be "medically screened to ensure their health and [protect] the health of our citizens," and that Texas be reimbursed "for the $500 million we’ve spent securing the border over the past decade."
"And finally… invest sufficient resources to put an adequate number of Border Patrol agents on the ground permanently, and utilize existing technology, including drones, to help plug the gaps in security operations currently being filled by Texans," he asked in prepared remarks.
More than 52,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have been caught trying to sneak over the U.S.-Mexico border since October, double the number from the same period the year before. Thousands more have been apprehended with parents or other adults.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Texas Republican Rep. Michael McCaul, also urged President Barack Obama to immediately dispatch National Guard forces "to free up Border Patrol agents so they can perform their primary mission, and that is securing the border."
But Ramon Garcia, a county judge, said the problem was a shortage of officials to process the children, primarily from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, who he said have been smuggled over the border by Mexican criminal gangs.
“If you really want to stop the influx you need to have quicker deportation hearings," he said.
Perry said the political rhetoric has to be toned down in a issue that's "extremely complex," saying "This is an opportunity for us as Americans, not as Republicans or Democrats, to deal with an issue that the world is watching," The Guardian reported.
Yet he charged Obama is responsible for a "short-sighted and tragic decision to essentially turn [child immigrants] loose in the U.S."
“People think allowing them to stay in the US is doing them a favor. It is not," he said. "Those who come must be sent back to demonstrate that risking your lives … on this treacherous journey … it's not worth it."
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report
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