White's Border Plan Points Blame at Perry

The recent surge of killings and violence along the Texas-Mexico border has brought national attention to the ongoing drug war. And that's the backdrop for Bill White's campaign as he announces his plan to secure the border. Both White and Governor Rick Perry were in the Houston area today — with White's campaign accusing Perry of failing when it comes to border security. Laurie Johnson reports.

It's unusual for the two men to be in the Houston area at the same time. Governor Perry makes fairly frequent campaign stops here — the city is, after all, Bill White's home turf. Conversely, White does most of his campaigning in other parts of the state, trying to chip away at Perry's base.

White's 6-point plan to secure the border includes an ambitious pledge to add 1000 local law enforcement officers along the border.

"We need to do more to put the resources along the border. It can't be a one-time task force — people don't know the terrain or the residents there. Good policing means that somebody has experience with the community. They know when there's suspicious activity, they know who to ask. It involves plainclothes, it involves informants and that requires sustained police commitment by professional law enforcement officers."

White says he'll also add 250 state troopers to the Department of Public Safety, an agency that he says needs greater investigative capacity and intelligence units to combat cartels and gangs.

White's campaign accused Governor Perry of being a failure in obtaining the resources Texas needs to secure the border.

But Perry, speaking at a Baytown groundbreaking, says White is coming to the conversation a few years late.

"Starting in the '07 session of the legislature, funded now $230 million-plus dollars from Texas state tax dollars to go work to secure that border. I've called for 1,000 National Guard troops, 3,000 border patrol in a permanent way. So again he's following our lead from the standpoint of border security."

Perry sent a request to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano in February, asking for the increased National Guard presence. He delivered a similar letter to the president last month.

White says his border plan will fund local officers at a cost of $75-95 million, and would be paid by federal grants, state funds and money from drug forfeitures.

"If we make it a high priority within the budget with a combination of the large amounts of federal grants we get every year, the state appropriations that have been put in each budget then we ought to be able to cover this cost. It'll be a priority for the state. And if Rick Perry says he can't figure out how to do that, that's just another sign we need a new governor."

With the November election exactly two months away, voters can expect more and more of these exchanges between Texas' longest-running governor and Houston's most popular former mayor.

Laurie Johnson. KUHF News.

Bio photo of Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Local Host, All Things Considered

Laurie Johnson is the Houston host for All Things Considered at KUHF NPR for Houston. Before taking the anchor chair, she worked as a general assignments reporter at KUHF, starting there as an intern in 2002...