BASTROP, Texas (AP) -- Gov. Rick Perry said Wednesday that sending National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border will defend not just his home state but the entire nation from "narco-terrorists" and brushed aside charges he's playing politics with the issue.<br />
The Republican's possible 2016 White House aspirations got a boost nationally last month when he ordered 1,000 National Guard troops to the border. Perry traveled to Camp Swift Army National Guard Training Center 30 miles outside Austin for a firsthand look at the training they are getting for deployment - while perhaps hoping to look presidential.<br />
"You now are the tip of the spear protecting Americans from these cartels," Perry told hundreds of troops in camouflage. "As they are able to get past you they could be headed to any city, any neighborhood in this country, spreading their tentacles of crime, of fear."<br />
Perry noted that crime committed by people in the U.S. illegally had affected not only Texas, but Iowa, South Carolina and North Carolina, all of which he's visited recently and two of which hold early presidential voting contests.<br />
According to the Texas Department of Public Safety data that Perry frequently cites, 203,000 illegal immigrants have been charged since 2008 with more than 3,000 homicides and 8,000-plus sexual assaults. But federal data shows that, consistent with trends nationwide, crime along Texas' border has fallen in recent years. County sheriffs, state lawmakers and other border officials, meanwhile, have said the National Guard is unnecessary and that Perry is thinking of his political future above all else.<br />
U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, a San Antonio Democrat, said in a statement Wednesday that Perry's order "appears to be a feel good show of force without clear purpose."<br />
Perry though, scoffed at that notion.<br />
"The idea that what we're doing is politics versus protecting the people of Texas, the people of this country is just false on its face," he said.
A blustery winter storm dumped snow and ice across the West on Wednesday, making driving treacherous in the mountains from California to the Rockies and forcing residents and party-goers in some usually sun-soaked cities to bundle up for a frosty New Year's.
House Republican leaders rallied around one of their own, Whip Steve Scalise, on Tuesday after he said he regrets speaking 12 years ago to a white supremacist organization and condemns the views of such groups.
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