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Statistics show a steady increase in border patrol staffing in the past 20 years. Statistics show a steady increase in border patrol staffing in the past 20 years.

Statistics show a steady increase in border patrol staffing in the past 20 years.

Becky Bowers
By Becky Bowers September 23, 2011

Gov. Rick Perry says the federal government "has not engaged" in border security

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has railed against the Obama administration for failing to adequately invest in border security in Texas. At the Fox News Google debate in Orlando Sept. 22, 2011, he took it a step further, saying "the federal government has not engaged in (border security) at all."

We were under the impression (as is the state of Texas) that the U.S. government is responsible for protecting the nation's borders, so this caught us by surprise.

Here's how the debate unfolded:

Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace asked former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum whether he thought Perry was soft on illegal immigration.

SANTORUM: And so, yes, I would say that (Perry) is soft on illegal immigration. I think the fact that he doesn't want to build a fence -- he gave a speech in 2001 where he talked about, bi-national health insurance between Mexico and Texas. I mean, I don't even think Barack Obama would be for bi-national health insurance.

So I think he's very weak on this issue of American sovereignty and protecting our borders and not being a magnet for illegal immigration, yes.

WALLACE: Governor Perry, 30 seconds to respond, sir.

PERRY: I've got one question for him.

Have you ever even been to the border with Mexico?


PERRY: I'm surprised if you have, but you weren't paying attention, because the idea that you --

SANTORUM: Well, the answer is, yes, I have.

PERRY: -- are going to build a wall, a fence for 1,200 miles, and then go 800 miles more to Tijuana, does not make sense. You put the boots on the ground.

We know how to make this work. You put the boots on the ground. You put the aviation assets --

SANTORUM: But it's not working, Governor.

PERRY: -- in the ground. No, it's not working because the federal government has not --

SANTORUM: But you said we know how it works. Is it working in Texas?

PERRY: The federal government has not engaged in this at all. When I'm the president of the United States, I'll promise you one thing --

SANTORUM: But you're saying you put the assets there. Has it worked in Texas?

PERRY: -- we will put the assets on the ground --

SANTORUM: You said you have.

PERRY: -- the boots on the ground --

BAIER: Senator Santorum, let him finish, please.

PERRY: -- the aviation assets on the ground, and we will stop illegal immigration, we will stop the drug cartels, and we will make America secure.

SANTORUM: Can you answer the question? Is it working?

WALLACE: Well, you know, you asked your question, he gave his answer, sir.


So, according to Perry, the goverment needs to get boots, among other assets, on the ground to stop illegal immigration, stop drug cartels and secure the country. And the reason "it's not working" now is because "the federal government has not engaged in this at all."
Really? There aren't any federal boots on the Texas border?
PolitiFact looked at related issues this summer, concluding that U.S. Border Patrol has "doubled the number of agents since 2004." Meanwhile, we found it Mostly True that the U.S. has more agents than ever patrolling its borders. Of those more than 20,000 agents in 2010, more than 17,000 worked along the Southwest border, much of which is Texas. No boots, huh?
Perry's own office has a Homeland Security Strategic Plan that notes that local and state law enforcement officials "partner with federal agencies like the U.S. Border Patrol" and also notes that part of Texas' $200 million investment since 2005 to fill border security gaps came from federal grants.

Meanwhile, at the end of fiscal year 2010, the federal Department of Homeland Security investments in border security had grown to $11.9 billion and included more than 40,000 personnel, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

We're not checking whether federal investment has been effective — merely, as Perry said, whether the federal government has been "engaged."


Featured Fact-check

With more U.S. agents than ever patrolling the U.S. border — most of them in the Southwest — we've got to say, Governor, your own boots might be at risk. Because we rate your statement Pants on Fire.


Our Sources

Transcript of Sept. 22, 2011, Republican presidential debate in Orlando, Fla. (via CQ Newsmaker Transcripts)

Texas Legislative Budget Board, "Homeland Security Funding in Texas," Dec. 2008

PolitiFact, "Obama says border patrol has doubled the number of agents since 2004," May 10, 2011 (True)

PolitiFact Georgia, "Obama: U.S. has more agents than ever patrolling borders," April 29, 2011 (Mostly True)

United States Border Patrol, Border Patrol Agent Staffing By Fiscal Year, accessed Sept. 22, 2011


Office of the Governor, Texas Homeland Security Strategic Plan, 2010-2015


White House Office of the Press Secretary, "Remarks by the President on Comprehensive Immigration Reform in El Paso, Texas," May 10, 2011




PolitiFact Texas Perry-O-Meter, "Budget increases state funding for border security," July 6, 2011



Congressional Research Service, Border Security: The Role of the U.S. Border Patrol, March 3, 2010



PolitiFact, "Obama says the border fence is 'now basically complete,' May 16, 2011 (Mostly False)


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Gov. Rick Perry says the federal government "has not engaged" in border security

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