Texas Gov. Rick Perry rejected a request by a Hispanic state senator to block plans by Minuteman Project volunteers to begin border patrols in October, saying no elected official has the authority to prevent “law-abiding citizens from traveling to, from or within this state.”
In response to a resolution authored by State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa and signed by 10 others, Mr. Perry said that although he is opposed to civilian volunteers patrolling the Texas border, he would not block their pending vigil, telling the senators that policy changes were needed to deal with the problem.
“I fully understand and can appreciate the frustration that many Texans and others across the nation have with illegal immigration, its potential impact on our national security and the unacceptable burden it is placing on taxpayers, and state and local criminal-justice, education and health care systems,” Mr. Perry said in a statement.
“The federal government can and must do more to close the border to illegal immigration,” the two-term Republican said. “Until that happens, these kinds of citizen-initiated efforts likely will be the result. If you want to send the Minutemen home, I urge you to make sure we have enough federal agents on the border to secure it.”
Mr. Perry, who said 1.4 million illegal aliens live in Texas, warned that the “continued flow of a significant number of undocumented immigrants into the United States is not acceptable, especially in the post-September 11 era.”
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee, Texas Democrat who also asked the governor to “disinvite” the Minutemen, told Mr. Perry she was concerned that the Arizona project had given people time to get “incensed” and was worried about “deadly violence” along the Texas vigil.
Mr. Perry replied in a letter that border control and the enforcement of immigration laws are the federal government’s responsibility and that as a member of the House Judiciary subcommittee on immigration, border security and claims, the congresswoman was “in a position to address this important matter.”
Mr. Hinojosa, a Democrat from McAllen, said in the resolution that Texas border communities rely heavily on tourism, commerce and the free flow of legal cross-border traffic to help support local economies and that the Minuteman patrols could “impede the traffic and negatively affect both tourism and trade along the border.”
Minuteman volunteers plan to monitor a portion of the Texas-Mexico border along the Rio Grande in October, although a specific start date has not been set. Minuteman organizers Chris Simcox and James Gilchrist initially targeted the border region between Brownsville and Laredo, although no location has been finalized.
Mr. Simcox, publisher of a Tombstone, Ariz., newspaper, said more than 10,000 civilians have volunteered for new patrols in Texas, New Mexico and California, adding that the 30-day Arizona vigil brought worldwide attention to the problem of illegal immigration and sent a message to Congress that Americans want stronger immigration enforcement.
The Texas vigil is expected to present the Minutemen with new challenges. The Arizona vigil took place on open, mostly uninhabited desert land, but much of the area on the Texas border is privately owned. An effort to stop illegal immigration in Texas in 2003 led to assault charges and a civil lawsuit. The Texas border also is violent, with alien and drug smugglers willing to protect their turf through killings.
The Texas Senate Committee on Intergovernmental Relations left Mr. Hinojosa’s resolution pending. The senator did not return calls to his office yesterday for comment.