AUSTIN, Texas - Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick wants National Guard troops to stay on the Texas Mexico border. Money to keep the 200 troops who are down there runs out in March.
Senate republicans joined Patrick for the announcement Tuesday to support spending $12 million to keep troops down on the border through at least May.
"The word got out that Texas was serious about securing our border," said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick. "To fund the guard through the end of May will be an additional $12 million. We have the money and we need to spend it to keep the guard there."
During the summer surge 1,000 National Guard troops deployed to the border. Patrols increased by water and air. Last year the number of people caught illegally crossing peaked at just more than 50,000 in two months.
"Since deploying the guard we have seen a significant decline in the number of apprehensions," said Patrick.
"It's not a war zone. The border is not a war zone," said State Senator Jose Rodriguez, a Democrat from El Paso. Rodriguez joined other immigrant rights advocates for a press conference responding to Patrick's plan. Instead of adding boots on the ground Rodriguez sees this as an opportunity to invest in the border. He questions how to effectively measure the spending.
"We don't know how to measure whether we are being effective with these public dollars," said Rodriguez.
"The short and long range is to keep the guard there as long as necessary in terms of strength of troop level until we have more DPS officers stationed in that area," Patrick said.
He wants the guard to stay through the fiscal year allowing the legislature to make decisions about whether to keep troops there longer.
"As the DPS head said the border is still not secure because we know the federal government is shirking from its responsibilities to do so," added Patrick.
Patrick campaigned on border security and maintains now is not the time to draw troops back.
"Don't stop doing something that is working to protect the safety of Texas," Patrick said.
Immigrant rights advocates from across the state plan a rally Wednesday at 11 a.m. on the south steps of the Capitol.