When Texas Gov. Rick Perry decided this summer to deploy National Guard troops along the Texas-Mexico border, he called it a necessary move to combat federal inaction on border security. But a report released last week is calling it economically damaging.
The Perryman Group, an economic analysis firm based in Waco, Texas, studied past deployments of National Guard troops along the southern Texas border to project the potential economic impact of the 1,000 troops Perry ordered there in July. For each year the National Guard troops remain along the border, the group said, businesses in Texas’s Lower Rio Grande Valley would lose $541.9 million in gross product and 7,830 jobs. On a wider scale, the state of Texas would lose 8,680 jobs and $650 million in gross product per year.
These estimates were based on economic analysis of past National Guard deployments along the Texas-Mexico border, and excluded external economic effects on businesses’ performance in the area, the group said. The reason for the economic slowdown is tied to the discouraging effect the troops' presence has on cross-border business and tourism.
Perry first announced the deployment of the National Guard to the border in July in what he called “Operation Strong Safety.” Texas state officials projected the deployment itself would cost $12 million a month, and said they eventually would ask Washington to foot the bill.
The Rio Grande Valley had been saturated with an influx of unaccompanied child migrants, mostly from Central America, in the months leading up to his announcement, but Perry said the troop deployment was aimed at deterring criminal groups taking advantage of enforcement officials’ stretched resources. Since July, however, the number of child migrants at the border has sharply declined.
Many observers speculated Perry’s decision was a political move to establish himself as a hardliner on immigration to set up a possible 2016 presidential campaign. Meanwhile, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto criticized the governor in an interview this week, calling the deployment “reprehensible” and damaging to the Texas-Mexico relationship.
About 400 National Guard troops began arriving at the border in late August, and the full rollout of 1,000 is expected to be completed in the coming weeks.