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Some Texas National Guard troops on border using food handouts: lawmaker

By Jim Forsyth

AUSTIN Texas (Reuters) - Some of the Texas National Guard troops dispatched to the Texas-Mexico border have been relying on charities and food banks for their meals due to the way the state is paying the troops, a state representative said on Friday.

"Essentially, the Guard is directing these soldiers to temporarily finance their own deployment," said Rene Oliveira, a Democratic state representative from the border city of Brownsville.

Oliveira said soldiers are expected to buy their meals while deployed, then submit receipts to the Guard for reimbursement. Since many were deployed rather suddenly, some have run out of the little money they took with them and are relying on food handouts while waiting for their first reimbursement from the state.

The Texas National Guard said in a statement it has "made inquiries to local food banks to help service members who may have existing financial hardships."

It added that members of the deployment are "fully resourced."

The Texas National Guard said it is providing a per diem for meals on a normal state payroll schedule, with payments made twice a month.

In mid-August, Texas began deploying as many as 1,000 troops to the border in a mission that was expected to cost at least $12 million a month.

Republican Governor Rick Perry has said the deployment was needed to secure the border because the attention of the U.S. Border Patrol was being diverted by a surge of children from Central America crossing into Texas.

Critics have questioned the spending, saying data shows the flow of children has slowed, more U.S. Border Patrol agents have been assigned to the region and the National Guard will not have the power to arrest, which raises questions about what the troops will do.

(Reporting by Jim Forsyth; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Eric Beech)

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