EDINBURG — Gov. Rick Perry toured the U.S.-Mexico border with a Fox News anchor Tuesday to draw attention to what he described as a disconnect between Texas and Washington, D.C., on the safety of the border.
President Barack Obama’s immigration speech in El Paso three weeks ago painted a picture of a safe and secure border, Perry said after he was interviewed by Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren in Hidalgo County. But Perry said local law enforcement authorities are increasingly challenged with securing the border, requiring them to turn to Austin for aid in handling a federal responsibility.
“For us to turn a blind eye the way Washington has done is inappropriate,” Perry said at a grassroots gathering of supporters. “(Americans) will send the message to this administration that you need to spend the money securing our border with Mexico to stop the drug cartels and the terror going on along the border.”
Perry spoke with Van Susteren on Tuesday for a two-part interview on border security. Afterward, he met for an hour with a crowd of supporters at the Echo Hotel in Edinburg before departing for Austin, where he’ll sign bills Wednesday related to the prosecution and punishment of human trafficking offenders.
Although Perry has repeatedly and emphatically stated he isn’t planning to run for president in 2012 — telling reporters in Austin on Tuesday he doesn’t want distraction from his work in Texas — the governor’s speech in Edinburg was regularly directed at issues in Washington, not Austin.
Perry said the sonogram bill he signed into law Tuesday will ensure pregnant women fully consider the sanctity of life before getting an abortion. He said the state’s voter ID legislation — derided by Hidalgo County Democrats as a means of keeping minorities away from the polls — will ensure “open, honest elections,” and he expressed optimism the Legislature can finalize a budget in the session’s waning days.
Perry said his supporters in the hurricane-prone Rio Grande Valley should be opposed to using the $6 billion left in the state’s rainy day fund to blunt budget cuts because it would leave the state with no safety net in the event of a natural disaster.
But Perry directed many of his comments toward Washington, which he complained is ignoring constitutional obligations like protecting the nation’s borders while infringing on individual rights through healthcare reform.
“It’s time to tell Washington to get out of our business,” Perry said to the loudest round of applause. “The federal government was created by the state to be an agent for the states, not the other way around.”
State Rep. Aaron Peña, R-Edinburg, who accompanied Perry to the border, said Texas legislators are addressing border security needs not covered by the federal government. Peña is a House sponsor of legislation that grants the Department of Public Safety authority to establish southbound checkpoints to search for weapons and cash used by the drug cartels.
Federal law enforcement authorities rarely inspect vehicles heading south into Mexico from the United States even though many weapons used by the cartels are purchased in this country.
“We’ve always been up front on the issues in Texas,” Peña said. “We don’t react. We act.”
But Perry’s political aspirations — or lack thereof — were a hot topic Tuesday. Peña said he’s personally encouraged Perry to run for president to provide Texas a strong influence on the national stage.
And former Hidalgo County Republican Party Chairman Hollis Rutledge said Perry’s leadership has helped Texas become identified as a business-oriented state.
“Texas is in good shape, and Rick Perry is a reason why,” Rutledge said.