The Texas Department of Public Safety made its case during a public hearing Wednesday in Brownsville about why it needs more than $1 billion for border security.
“We actually need to assess, actively, the level of security between the ports of entry and there’s things you can do,” Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw said during the hearing held at City Hall. “If you don’t have a unified command, if you’re not operating 24/7, you can’t secure, you can’t be in substantial control.”
The Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety hosted the public hearing to discuss issues related to border security and operations, including the efforts of local law enforcement.
DPS received $800 million during the last session of the Texas Legislature and is asking for roughly $300 million more to hire an additional 250 state troopers.
McCraw presented results from Operation Secure Texas, a project funded by the $800 million.
“I can appreciate you saying, ‘We’ve increased the level of security because there’s more troopers, because there’s a lot more cameras or there’s more boats in the water,’” state Rep. Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez (D-Eagle Pass) said. “Again, what has that increased level of security gotten us? In other words, are we actually more secure simply because we’ve done those things and is there a number that will show us that in 2014 we were less secure because these are the numbers.”
State Rep. Larry Phillips (R-Sherman), chairman of the committee, interrupted a lengthy discussion between Nevárez and McCraw and suggested that the hearing “go on.”
“This is important,” Nevárez said. “What I don’t want to do, Chairman, is I don’t want to sit here through an hour of, ‘We’ve done all this stuff.’ We’ve already seen that in a lot of hearings. … I want to hear what’s changed. That’s all I want to hear.”
State Rep. Ryan Guillen (D-Rio Grande City) asked McCraw how much funding will be enough to secure the border. Guillen suggested that if $800 million is required to reach operational control in two counties, it might cost $5.6 billion to secure all 14 border counties.
“This is a unified-type effort in local, state and federal and Border Patrol does a great job with the resources they have,” McCraw said. “You’ll never hear us criticize the great men and women of Border Patrol.”
Guillen interrupted and asked McCraw if he had an estimate if the figure was not $5.6 million.
“A little over $300 million is what we requested for the next session,” McCraw said.
Guillen asked McCraw, “Will the $300 million plus your $800 million achieve the green status for the entire Texas border or not?”
McCraw replied: “I don’t believe it will. I believe it will get to the yellow status of operational control. There are so many factors that it will depend upon how much resources Border Patrol comes to bear.”
State Rep. Eddie Lucio III (D-San Benito) told The Rider the discussion about border security is necessary.
“Anytime you spend a significant amount of money, whether it’s on education, health care, border security, infrastructure, you name it, you want to make sure those dollars are being spent as you intended,” Lucio said.
He said the public hearing was important because the Legislature wants to make sure the money is spent effectively.
“There’s one thing to send a bunch of troopers to the border and, hopefully, that will have a visual deterrent. That’s one level of security,” Lucio said. “I think what Rep. Nevárez is trying to get to is, ‘Aside from your visual deterrent, are you making apprehensions at a higher rate? Are communities safer? Have crimes rates gone down? Are drug activities trending downwards because of the investment we make?’”