Gov. Rick Perry’s office said on Tuesday that because of the illegal immigration surge on the southern border, the planned binational Border Governors Conference will be scaled back to only a dinner with the elected officials.
Texas and the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas were selected to chair this year’s event, scheduled for late September. The original agenda included seven working groups on issues like border security, education, logistics and international crossings. The annual conference traditionally includes governors or representatives from the 10 American and Mexican border states.
“Gov. Perry has been focused on the ongoing humanitarian and national security crises occurring along Texas' southern border,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said in an email. “Because of this serious situation, we are greatly scaling back the 2014 Border Governors Conference to consist of a governors-only dinner meeting at the originally scheduled September 23 date.”
The announcement comes a day after Perry said he would deploy up to 1,000 National Guard troops to help law enforcement perform border security operations in South Texas.
Nashed said the private meeting would still give the governors or their staff the opportunity to discuss issues that are important to the region, including border security and immigration. Mexico’s planned energy reform was also likely to be a popular topic at this year’s event, as that country’s senate has passed laws that would open up Mexico’s oil monopoly to private foreign investment. The change could mean a boost for Texas companies looking to tap in to Mexico’s rich reserves, and Perry said late last year the shift in policy could lure many Mexicans living in Texas illegally back home.
The 2010 event was nearly canceled after the six Mexican governors protested host-state Arizona’s new immigration law, SB 1070. The following year, only one U.S. governor showed, Susana Martinez of New Mexico. The first conference was held in 1980.