Given his recent predilection for spinning the ongoing humanitarian crisis into political capital, an announcement last week from Texas Gov. Rick Perry almost seemed inevitable. In recent weeks, he has significantly increased his media presence and his latest move looks to continue this trend of opportunism and gamesmanship.
Last week, Gov. Perry announced he would deploy 1,000 National Guard troops to support Border Patrol agents in processing the large numbers of families and children fleeing violence being apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border.
“I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault,” Perry told reporters.
Perry recently went on a patrol of the border with right-wing media personality Sean Hannity where the two were photographed wearing bulletproof vests and posing with a machine gun. Perry was also kicked off a national television broadcast after espousing conspiracy theories. Widely considered to be a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Perry has also spent considerable time in the important primary state of Iowa – where he has attended events alongside the virulently anti-immigrant Rep. Steve King (R-IA).
Naturally, Rep. King supports Perry’s decision – so do many other House Republicans. Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, the architect of Arizona’s notorious anti-immigrant legislation SB 1070, has similarly called on utilizing the National Guard in recent media appearances. Far-right activists in Texas including Maria Espinoza, Larry Korkmas and failed Congressional candidate Katrina Pierson — all of whom are affiliated with the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) – participated in a press conference at the Texas State House featuring calls for National Guard troops on the border. For its part, FAIR also called for increased border militarization in a July 8 press release demanding Congress “[r]equire and fund the deployment of the National Guard so that Border Patrol and ICE agents can do their jobs and protect our country.”
There is, however, an issue with what Gov. Perry and many within the anti-immigrant movement support: It likely won’t solve any of the issues Border Patrol officials currently face. H. Steven Blum, former head of the National Guard under President George W. Bush, recently noted to The Washington Post that National Guard troops are limited in many ways and “[m]erely sending the Guard to the border is not a panacea for the myriad complex problems of the current situation”
Surprisingly, even Mark Krikorian of the anti-immigrant Center for Immigration Studies (CIS) noted Perry’s announcement was little more than political posturing when he tweeted, “Not sure Natl [sic] Guard will do much good at TX border, but Obama made dumb political mistake not sending them before Perry.”
Rather than thrust himself into the national spotlight and get a leg-up on his potential 2016 opponents, Gov. Perry should direct his efforts to ensuring those fleeing violence in Central America are treated humanely and their rights under U.S. law are respected. All of our elected officials should.