Governor visits El PasoMillions to help local agencies protect stateLouie GilotEl Paso Times
Gov. Rick Perry came to El Paso on Friday to sell his plan for border security and found a taker in El Paso's police chief.
"I offer this plan, not because it is the state's responsibility to control the federal border but because the state of Texas cannot wait for the federal government to implement needed border security measures," Perry said during a news conference Friday at the El Paso Police Headquarters.
Police Chief Richard Wiles had previously taken a stance against a proposal by U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, to allow local law enforcement to arrest undocumented immigrants, believing it could discourage crime victims from calling the police.
"But this is different," he said Friday. "This is about putting pressure on the federal
government to step up to the plate. This is about allowing us to pay overtime for officers and put more officers out there. It will help all of us."
Perry pledged $9.7 million in state funds to pay for overtime for local officers, to upgrade technology and to come up with a binational disaster response plan.
El Paso police already know what to do with the governor's money.
"Our issue is the international bridges," Wiles said. "Two weeks ago, we had a stash house with 900 pounds of pot that had come through the bridges. If they can get that in, what else can get in?"
Police tested a plan late last year to pay some officers overtime to cover the bridges.
The two-month pilot program was paid for with $400,000 to $500,000 in federal money and was called Operation Stonegarden.
Officers tackled drug busts, and driving while intoxicated and assault cases at the bridges.
The El Paso County Sheriff's Office had its own pilot program last year to test -- Operation Linebacker. The plan, unveiled by the Texas
Border Sheriff's Coalition this week, would increase the presence of deputies in the county.
Perry said he would support Operation Linebacker with overtime money and rapid-response teams of state troopers that could be sent to the border to assist the sheriffs.'Porous border'
Perry said protecting the border was a matter of homeland security.
"Terrorist networks like al-Qaida, they view our porous border as an opportunity to import terror," he said.
When asked what evidence he had that al-Qaida planed to infiltrate the border, Perry passed the microphone to State Homeland Security Director Steve McGraw.
"We know this from the intelligence community. It was testified to by Admiral Loy. He didn't reveal sources and methods but there is evidence that this is the case," McGraw said.
Admiral James Loy, deputy secretary of Homeland Security, testified to Congress at the beginning of the year, "Recent information ... strongly
suggests that al-Qaeda has considered using the Southwest border to infiltrate the United States. Several al-Qaeda leaders believe operatives can pay their way into the country through Mexico and also believe illegal entry is more advantageous than legal entry for operational security reasons," according to congressional records.Wiretap legislature
Perry has also asked the Texas Legislature to expand the wiretap laws, which now allow secret recording only of conversations in murder and drug cases, to also cover kidnapping, extortion and human trafficking cases. The change would mirror the reach of existing federal wiretap laws.
State Rep. Joe Pickett, D-El Paso, said he was likely to support such a legislation, which has yet to be drafted.
"People will argue about civil rights. But it hasn't been a slippery slope at the federal level and it's been around for a while, so I don't think it would be abused," he said.
Louie Gilot may be reached