Texas Gov. Rick Perry's decision to send 1,000 National Guardsmen to the border on an ill-defined mission will waste taxpayer dollars and not address any real problems currently facing the state.
It risks dealing an economic blow to all Texas communities on the Mexican border because it reinforces a false narrative about a dangerous international boundary.
But it will make good political theater for Perry, who is likely to seek the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, four years after his previous bid collapsed in large part because he was viewed by the GOP base as insufficiently harsh on undocumented immigrants.
Perry is dispatching a military force in response to an influx of women and children from Central America who, for the most part, are walking across the South Texas border and surrendering to Customs and Border Protection agents.
His call for Guard troops on the border was supported by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, House Speaker Joe Straus and Attorney General Greg Abbott, the GOP nominee to succeed Perry in the governor's office.
At a news conference Monday, Perry said that "drug cartels, human traffickers and individual criminals are cruelly exploiting this tragedy for their own criminal opportunities. ... I will not stand idly by while our citizens are under assault."
The governor presented no evidence to support his claim, and border sheriffs said they weren't consulted on the Guard plan.
Perry dismissed evidence from border law-enforcement officials who've said they've seen no increase in crime since the influx of Central American migrants began. FBI data for years have shown that Texas border communities have among the nation's lowest crime rates.
The National Guard forces will be assigned to work with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers along the South Texas border, though exactly what they'll do and what impact they're expected to have is unclear, to say the least.
In taking steps to improve his standing in the Iowa caucuses, Perry puts at risk the well-being of Texas border communities he was elected to serve.
"This proposal sends the wrong message and perpetuates the myth that the Texas border region is a war zone, dangerous to visit, bad for business, and unhospitable to live," said state Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso. "Nothing could be further from the truth. Our border communities have shown tremendous courage, generosity, and American spirit in addressing the unaccompanied minors fleeing the violence of Central America and seeking refuge in our country."
Armed soldiers along the Mexican border may play well with GOP voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. But they are not the force needed to deal with the current crisis, and Texas' governor and other elected leaders are sending a distorted and harmful message about their constituent communities.