OPINION COLUMNS

Perry, Obama meet for border security discussion

By Ed Sterling | Published Wednesday, July 16, 2014

As unaccompanied minors and mothers with children and from Central American countries continued to cross the border into Texas, President Barack Obama met with Gov. Rick Perry July 9 in Dallas to discuss how to address the situation.

Afterward, Perry said he urged Mr. Obama to:

  • Witness in person what’s going on at the border;
  • Deploy 1,000 more National Guard troops to enhance border security;
  • Direct the Federal Aviation Administration to allow the National Guard to use unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) for border surveillance;
  • Medically screen all detainees;
  • Direct federal agencies to work with Texas Department of State Health Services to inspect detention facilities to ensure standards are met; and
  • Modify or rescind “policies that serve as a magnet to encourage illegal immigration” such as “catch and release.”

Despite Perry’s urging, the president chose not to visit the border. In a July 11 speech broadcast from Austin, Obama said he was waiting on Congress to approve his June 30 request for $3.7 billion in emergency funding to address the population influx.

The president asked that those funds be used for:

  • A “sustained surge” of enhanced domestic enforcement, including air surveillance;
  • Expenses related to the repatriation and reintegration of migrants, such as transportation costs, additional immigration judge teams, immigration prosecutors and immigration litigation attorneys to ensure cases are processed fairly and as quickly as possible;
  • Addressing root causes of migration, paying for public diplomacy and international information programs; paying operational costs of responding to apprehensions of unaccompanied children and adults traveling with children; and paying expenses associated with care for those apprehended, including medical responses.

FUNDING TO BE MONITORED

Texas House Speaker Joe Straus on July 2 created an 11-member Select Committee on the Fiscal Impact of Texas Border Support Operations.

Straus instructed the committee to monitor the costs of Texas-Mexico border operations and other services associated with increased border crossings. The committee also will review and evaluate any support Texas receives from the federal government and study the influx’s effect on resources available to local governments.

Plus, Straus said, the committee will determine the long-term budgetary effect of efforts to ensure Texans’ safety.

CASTRO IS NEW HUD CHIEF

On a vote of 71-26, the U.S. Senate July 9 confirmed San Antonio Mayor Juli n Castro as the next secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, a cabinet-level post. San Antonio is the nation’s seventh most populous city.

In May, President Obama nominated Castro to lead the HUD, citing his work to revitalize the city, “implementing housing and economic development projects that have attracted hundreds of millions of dollars in investments.”

HUD’s stated mission is “to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all.”

ACT’S ANNIVERSARY IS MARKED

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson, with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at his shoulder, July 2, 1964. The landmark act prohibits discrimination in the workforce based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

To mark the anniversary, Gov. Perry issued a proclamation commending the Texas Workforce Commission’s Civil Rights Division, the entity that enforces employment and housing discrimination laws.

GREEN VEHICLE GRANTS OFFERED

Texas Commission on Environmental Quality announced $7.7 million in grants available to eligible individuals, businesses, governmental entities and school districts to replace older diesel vehicles with new alternative fuel and hybrid vehicles powered by electricity, compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, hydrogen, propane or a mixture of fuels containing at least 85 percent methanol by volume.

Grant recipients must agree to operate the grant-funded vehicles for a defined percentage of annual mileage in the Houston-Galveston-Brazoria, Dallas-Fort Worth, Beaumont-Port Arthur, Tyler-Longview, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, Corpus Christi or Victoria areas for five years or 400,000 miles, whichever occurs earlier. Application deadline is Oct. 3.

CHIEF REACTS TO PETITION

Chairman Barry Smitherman of the energy-regulating Texas Railroad Commission sent a letter last week to the Denton City Council and mayor requesting that they not approve a petition to ban the use of hydraulic fracturing inside city limits.

A public hearing on the matter was scheduled for July 15.

“Those advocating for a ban on hydraulic fracturing know that what they are really calling for is a ban on drilling … without citing any concrete examples of hydraulic fracturing negatively impacting public health,” Smitherman wrote, adding: “Hydraulic fracturing is a “key pillar of the Texas economy.”

Ed Sterling is member services director for the Texas Press Association, headquartered in Austin.

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