In October 2005, Texas Gov. Rick Perry traveled to the border city of Laredo and announced Operation Linebacker, a new initiative that he said would protect the state’s residents from terrorist groups such as al-Qaida.
Without pointing to evidence, Perry said such terrorist groups, along with drug cartels and gangs, were attempting to exploit the U.S.-Mexico border. A press release from the governor’s office said Perry warned that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, criminal organizations could “import terror, illegal narcotics and weapons of mass destruction.”
Perry said Texas would step in to fill the gaps left by the federal government, increasing state law enforcement presence along the border and providing new investigative tools. He stopped short of directly attacking President George W. Bush or the Republican-led Congress. “The state of Texas cannot wait for the federal government to implement needed border security measures,” Perry said, explaining that the state would use $10 million in funding that included federal grants for the operation. Two months later, the governor highlighted his border security efforts while announcing his reelection campaign.
Over the next 17 years, Perry and his successor, Gov. Greg Abbott, persuaded the Texas Legislature to spend billions of dollars on border security measures that included at least nine operations and several smaller initiatives. Each time, the governors promised that the state would do what the federal government had failed to: secure the border.
The pronouncements often coincided with their gubernatorial campaigns or times when they were considering bids for higher office. Perry and Abbott also ramped up their political attacks on the federal government during periods when Democrats held the presidency or a majority in Congress.
In 2007, with Bush still in office but Democrats in control of Congress, Texas allocated $110 million in state funding to border security. The figure swelled to nearly $3 billion last year as Abbott criticized newly inaugurated President Joe Biden, claiming Biden had not done enough to stop drug and human smuggling.