Tensions continued last week concerning the tens of thousands of Central Americans – primarily unaccompanied minors and women with small children – who cross into the Lone Star State, without documentation, to escape violence and poverty in their own countries.
Those intercepted by the authorities are moved to detention facilities and processed according to federal and state protocols. On July 21, Gov. Rick Perry ordered the deployment of 1,000 Texas National Guard members to assist in Operation Strong Safety, a state law enforcement surge on the border, under the command and control of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“The action I am ordering today will tackle this crisis head-on by multiplying our efforts to combat the cartel activity, human traffickers and individual criminals who threaten the safety of people across Texas and America,” Perry said. Border county sheriffs said, however, the pressing needs for their jurisdictions are more deputies and humanitarian aid, rather than military assistance.
Responses followed, with some lawmakers and candidates applauding Perry’s decision and others calling the decision to deploy soldiers to the border a mistake, or political theater.
For example, Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said, “We have less crime in the (Rio Grande) Valley than we do in other major Texas cities. If we were to use crime as a basis to deploy the National Guard, then we should be sending the National Guard to other metropolitan areas in our state,” and, “To call up the National Guard is a very simplistic approach to a complex problem.”
Hinojosa’s Senate District 20 includes all or part of the highly affected counties of Hidalgo, Brooks and Jim Wells.
Attorney General Greg Abbott, a Republican running for governor, praised Perry’s decision and said, “This crisis is a public safety priority and deploying the National Guard to the border is crucial to address the organized criminal activity by cartels and international gangs.”
On July 22, the Texas Catholic Conference announced it had issued a letter signed by bishops from each of the state’s 15 dioceses to the Texas Congressional delegation urging members to find a consensus “that compassionately and effectively addresses the humanitarian crisis along the southern border.”
On July 25, President Obama and Vice President Biden met with the presidents of Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to discuss how their governments “are cooperating to disrupt smuggling organizations and promote safe, legal and orderly migration.” Meanwhile, Congress did not act on Obama’s request for $3.7 billion in emergency funds to address the population influx.
WORKFORCE REPORT ISSUED
State Comptroller Susan Combs on July 23 announced the release of “Workforce – Capitalizing on Our Human Assets,” a new, 24-page report available at txworkers.org.
The report, she said, “explores the promise of Texas’ young population and the economic growth that has created worker shortages in some industries” and “lays out recommendations that would help the Texas workforce continue to enjoy prosperity in the coming decades.”
Combs noted that, “Between 2000 and 2010, Texas’ under-18 population grew by more than 979,000, or 17 percent – 6.5 times faster than the U.S. average of 2.6 percent. These numbers should position the state to have a strong workforce – if the young workers receive proper training and education.”
WELL PLUGGING GOES ON
Texas Railroad Commission announced some 428 “orphaned wells” have been plugged and 117 site remediation and cleanup activities have been conducted, including the plugging of five offshore orphaned wells in fiscal year 2014, which ends Aug. 31.
To some, an orphaned well is thought to be an abandoned well that does not have a responsible party. Technically, as stated in Chapter 89 of the state’s Natural Resources Code, “orphaned well” means a well:
- for which the Railroad Commission has issued a permit;
- for which production of oil or gas or another activity under the jurisdiction of the commission has not been reported to the commission for the preceding 12 months; and
- whose operator’s commission-approved organization report has lapsed.
The commission said its goal for the remainder of the fiscal year is to plug 111 more wells and remediate and clean up 130 additional sites. Funded entirely by the oil and gas industry at a cost of $219.5 million since 1992, the agency has plugged more than 30,100 wells.
SALES TAX HOLIDAY IS SET
Texas’ annual sales tax holiday is on the calendar for Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 8 through 10.
Most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100 from sales tax, are exempt from sales taxation during the three-day event.
Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association.