Texas officials to discuss border funding

Some lawmakers want governor to call special legislative session to focus on increased spending for border security


June 18--AUSTIN -- Texas' top three lawmakers hope to work out a deal in the coming days to provide millions of dollars in emergency border funding to address the waves of unaccompanied children from Central America flooding into Texas.

Senior staffers from the offices of Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus, all Republicans, will be briefed by Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw on Wednesday, in a meeting expected to lay the groundwork for a final deal to temporarily boost border funding, sources familiar with the discussions said.

Wednesday's meeting among officials from Texas' top three lawmakers and the chief of state police comes amid heightened calls from Republicans in the Legislature for state leaders to immediately fund a plan to assist the federal government's response along the border to what has been labeled an "extraordinary influx."

Some 60,000 unaccompanied children and teens are expected to cross into the Texas border this year -- up from about 6,560 in 2011. The stream of unaccompanied children has already caused a crisis, overwhelming Border Patrol facilities and sparking debate in Washington over what's causing the calamity and how to handle it.

In Texas, grass-roots conservatives -- led by state Reps. Jonathan Stickland, R-Bedford, and Steve Toth, R-The Woodlands -- are asking the governor to call a special legislative session to focus on increasing state spending for border security.

State Sen. Dan Patrick, the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor, also joined the call for approval of emergency funding by top state leaders to beef up border security, though he didn't mention the prospects of a special session.

Sources briefed on the matter say lawmakers can approve a temporary spending increase for the border without calling a special session. It would simply require the signatures of Perry, Dewhurst and Straus to fund a temporary "surge" of state boots and resources along the border.

"It sounds like a start, but I don't think it's a full solution," Toth said. "We're going to keep putting the pressure on until we get some money to secure the border."

DPS estimates it will cost $1.3 million a week or $67 million over the course of the year to fund an operation aimed at increasing the number of boots on the border.

Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said Tuesday the governor is working with DPS to "identify options that can be taken immediately to address this crisis."

Dewhurst spent the final days of his failed re-election campaign selling the idea of a temporary funding boost to pay for more patrols along the border. His idea for a temporary border surge won approval from Perry, who signed onto a letter last month directing DPS to move forward on a three-month surge to start in September.

But Straus never signed onto the plan.

"Gov. Perry has expressed his support for this approach, especially in light of the growing unaccompanied minor situation caused by President Obama's irresponsible rhetoric," Dewhurst said in a statement. "We can no longer wait on the federal government to meet its responsibilities on border security. The state of Texas should resume the DPS surge operations and shut down the border now for the good of our state and our nation."

On Tuesday, Straus toured the Rio Grande Valley with DPS and Border Patrol officials and his spokesman said, "in addition to the sizable resources for border security that the Legislature approved last year, Speaker Straus is working with other leaders to immediately provide more state assistance to support the Border Patrol and local law enforcement."

"However, he believes the most effective way to address this issue is for the Obama administration to enforce existing immigration laws and stop giving signals that encourage families to send unaccompanied minors into the United States," Straus spokesman Jason Embry said.

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