I wish he'd made clear exactly what the "Israeli
discount" is- walls and fences, or aerial bombardment
and ground troops?
Article Launched: 09/03/2006 12:00:00 AM MDT
Border security hot issue in Texas governor race
By Brandi Grissom / Austin Bureau
AUSTIN -- Kinky Friedman has said that if he was
elected governor of Texas, he would make the Mexican
government pay for the costs of illegal immigration in
Texas or face what he called the "Israeli discount."
"We should be as ruthless as they are with the
southern border," said the independent gubernatorial
candidate, author and musician.
The heated national debate over border security and
immigration is also a major issue among Texas
candidates for the state's top job as they rev up
their campaigns in the 60 days remaining before the
Nov. 7 election.
During the past several months, GOP Gov. Rick Perry
has implemented several border security initiatives
and extolled their success side by side with border
county sheriffs and state security officials. But each
of his three main opponents -- Friedman, Democrat
Chris Bell and independent Comptroller Carole Keeton
Strayhorn -- said Perry's measures were too little too
late and were all done in the name of political
"The situation is not getting better, and it
shouldn't, because it's been neglected for political
reasons," Friedman said.
He said he supports groups such as the Minutemen Civil
Defense Corps because they draw attention to problems
on the border.
Asked about his own strategy for securing the border,
Friedman said, "I'm not sure. I don't have a plan."
He said he would appoint people who care about the
state to develop a plan based on his motto: "Remember
Border safety has deteriorated, Friedman said, because
politicians are too afraid to offend Hispanics and get
tough on the Mexican government.
"I would tell them (Mexican government officials) to
step up to the plate and pay their fair share of the
cost illegals are costing the state of Texas," he
said. "If they don't do that, then I want the border
on the nightly news every night."
Friedman said he agrees with Perry that the border
must be secured before changes in immigration law are
Congress is now at loggerheads over how much to
increase border security and whether those plans
should also include measures that allow more
documented immigrant workers in the country.
"If we can't draw a line, call it a border and protect
it, then we might as well not be here at all,"
Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Bell, a
former congressman from Houston, said he agrees that
border security must improve. Unlike the other
candidates, though, he said security could only happen
if immigration laws were also tackled.
He said the call for more fencing in some border areas
makes sense, as does the placing of National Guard
soldiers on the border as a stopgap measure while more
U.S. Border Patrol agents are trained.
He said, however, that a plan Perry announced this
summer to spend $5 million to put video cameras on
private land along the border and stream the video
over the Internet encourages vigilantism.
"I don't think we need to be turning private citizens
into immigrant hunters," Bell said.
He added that plans such as Perry's Operation Rio
Grande, for which the governor allotted about $10
million in the past year to state and local law
enforcement, are not reducing illegal border traffic.
"The flow of immigrants across the border has
continued in large numbers," he said. "I don't think
it makes a lot of sense to turn local officials into
border patrol agents."
If elected, Bell said, he would lobby Congress to pass
comprehensive legislation on border security and
"If we had been enforcing laws against hiring
undocumented workers, then we probably wouldn't be
having this national discussion," he said
He said he would also work with federal legislators to
create a plan that would use billions in payroll taxes
from unidentified undocumented immigrants to repay
border states for social service costs incurred by
Independent candidate Strayhorn, who won her current
office running as a Republican, said that she is
"adamantly against" illegal immigration and that she
would put all necessary resources into securing the
"We have got to secure our border, our ports and our
infrastructure," she said.
She emphasized that she would work closely with local
law enforcement officials to determine what resources
are needed to increase border security, she and called
the $10 million Perry has given border sheriffs
Asked about her plan for securing the border,
Strayhorn said: "I'm rolling out all of my Texas first
agenda, but let me tell you: Whatever it takes."
Strayhorn said one of the first things she would do if
elected is eliminate a Texas law that allows
undocumented immigrant students to pay in-state
tuition at public universities if they attended public
schools for three years and can prove they are working
to become citizens. "We cannot be giving in-state
tuition to illegal immigrants," she said.
Last year, Strayhorn told a Houston Republican group
that Texas had a responsibility to provide education
and health care for immigrants, legal or otherwise.
"I sympathize with those coming over who want to put a
roof over their heads," she said, according to an
August 2005 Associated Press report.
Responding to questions about whether that statement
was consistent with her current plan to eliminate the
in-state tuition law, Strayhorn repeated: "I am
adamantly against illegal immigration."
Perry spokesman Robert Black called the border
security ideas Strayhorn and Bell promoted non-plans.
Responding to Friedman's suggestion that Texas should
treat its border as Israel does, Black said: "Wow.
That kind of rhetoric is irresponsible. It's not real.
It's cartoon rhetoric."
He said Perry, who became governor in 2000, has been
working for more than a year and a half to increase
border security. The efforts, he said, were not
political but based on reports from Steve McCraw, whom
Perry appointed Texas homeland security director,
which indicated the border was a serious security
Black said operations along the border in Del Rio,
Laredo and El Paso -- where local officials report
crime reduced between 45 and 70 percent -- are
effective and a model Washington should follow.
Web cameras on the border, he said, will act as an
expanded neighborhood watch program.
"There is no reason why Texans should not be allowed
to help secure the border," he said.
Perry continues to press congressional leaders and the
Bush administration to pony up for border security
efforts, Black said. Until that happens, he said,
Perry would push state legislators to approve an
additional $100 million for city police, county
sheriffs and state law enforcement to increase
He said Perry believes that programs providing for
more documented migrant workers in the U.S. will only
work after Congress has improved border security.
"The safety of Texans is paramount," he said.
Brandi Grissom may be reached at
; (512) 479-6606.