Thank you, Chief [Art] Acevedo, for that introduction and for all you do to help keep Austin safe.
Although all of Texas is my priority as governor as an Austin resident, I'm glad you chose to stay here in town.
I want to thank the National Latino Peace Officers Association for having me here today, but, more importantly I want to thank each and every one of you for your sacrifices in the service of law and order across our country. For nearly four decades, the NLPOA has made a difference in communities from coast to coast increasing diversity in law enforcement while building bridges between citizens and the men and women who protect them.
Texas has been blessed with a sterling tradition of peace officers a long line of brave men and women who have put their own lives on the line to protect their fellow Texans. Even as we speak, men and women of Texas law enforcement are hard at work in hazardous conditions as they toil in their communities affected by Hurricane Alex.
As you know, Texas is no stranger to big storms, so we've learned to act early to minimize the human toll of natural disasters.
When Hurricane Alex drew a bead on Texas we authorized up to 2,500 members of our Texas Military Forces to assist local communities in the path of this storm.
As part of our detailed strategic plans, we activated two rapid-response task forces and prepositioned them to provide search and rescue capabilities throughout South Texas.
When it comes to emergency management here in Texas, we invite everybody to the table rallying state agencies, volunteer groups, the military, local law enforcement, and private sector partners in pursuit of one simple goal: keeping Texans safe. At this point, it appears Texas has been spared the worst of Alex.
Our relief is tempered by our knowledge that more storms will come but we'll be ready.
We'll be ready because we diligently plan and train and we'll succeed because of professionals like you public servants who disregard their own comfort and personal safety as they help their neighbors.
That unique brand of self-sacrifice is nothing new to you. It's what you do every day you put on the badge.
I wish I could say that your job's gonna get easier but human nature dictates you'll have a job for a long, long time.
Fortunately, new technology has made your job a little easier but the demands of that job continue to increase.
As the threat environment continues to shift and expand, peace officers are more important than ever.
Here in Texas, they face everything from natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and wildfires to pandemic disease outbreaks and criminal threats posed by terrorists, drug cartels, and increasingly violent gangs.
One of the things that also sets Texas apart and helps define us as a state and a culture is our border with Mexico.
Mexico is not only our closest neighbor whose history and culture is interwoven with ours they're our number one trading partner.
That makes for a bit of a balancing act as we work to protect our citizens from the increasing violence and unrest in Mexico that takes more lives every day.
Since January 2009, we have seen a number of vicious attacks on law enforcement officers where violent criminals have either fired on officers or attempted to run them over with vehicles. Reports out of El Paso indicate that teenagers are being recruited along the border areas to act as smugglers and/or hit men.
Perhaps some of them were using the tunnel under the Rio Grande that agents discovered just the other day in El Paso.
Earlier this week, a gubernatorial candidate in Mexico was gunned down on the way to a campaign event the suspected victim of drug lords.
Just yesterday, bullets from a shootout between Mexican police and criminals across the border hit El Paso city hall.
These episodes make it clear that criminals are playing for keeps and their proximity to Texas is a growing threat so a secure border is more necessary than ever.
Unfortunately, the federal government has been an abysmal failure when it comes to fulfilling that responsibility.
I deeply respect the Federal Border Patrol Agents who work with our local and state law enforcement in the border region but Washington has consistently shortchanged them when it comes to the people and resources they need to do their job.
That is why I requested 1,000 National Guard troops to help defend the Texas border more than a year ago.
President Obama's recent decision to deploy 1,200 National Guard troops to the border is a good first step but it's not nearly enough considering we account for 64% of the border and only got 20% of the troops.
This example of Washington's "underachievement" is nothing new to us it's pretty much been their approach all along.
In 2006, we jumped into the border security business with both feet and pursued a strategy that has reduced crime in key areas and cut down on smuggling of all kinds. We have taken the fight to the cartels and their associates.
As a result, Texas legislators have devoted more than $110 million in each of the last two legislative sessions to fund our efforts.
We've also introduced innovations like our Ranger Recon Teams units composed of Texas Rangers, Texas Military Forces, DPS Troopers, and local law enforcement personnel.
These units have the know-how, the skill and the experience to deal with new hot spots that flare up, and the support to shut them down.
Our efforts to secure the border don't only help Texas they make your jobs easier and protect your citizens as well no matter what state you call home.
Until the federal government decides to fulfill its obligation and start defending our national borders in earnest we'll keep doing what Texas does taking care of business.
The vow to "serve and protect" is one we all take very seriously. Of course, protecting people is only one part of your mission and you have done a remarkable job on the "serve" side as well.
I admire your efforts to bridge the unfortunate divide that occurs when groups feel marginalized or lose hope because of their background or circumstances.
When young people see peace officers they see symbols of authority.
In years past, that authority often represented only one demographic to which not all could relate.
Through years of hard work by organizations like yours the ranks of our nation's peace officers increasingly reflect the demographics of the communities they serve providing greater opportunities for connection.
No matter what circumstances shape a young person or how their last name is spelled they have role models in uniform who embody discipline and integrity. I respect your embrace of your heritage and the strength you draw from it as you defend our nation's fundamental values.
Diversity is an essential element of our state's strength when it is coupled with the freedom to work hard and achieve.
Roughly a third of our citizens identify themselves as Hispanic making them part of what will be our state's largest demographic group by the year 2020.
Our state is enriched by a diversity of thought and a blended heritage that forms one unique culture.
As surely as our state flag bears one star, we are one Texas and one people. And we all generally want the same thing.
We all seek a good education for our children, safe neighborhoods for our families, and the chance to succeed based on our own merit.
Preserving the peace as you do, makes that possible and that dream attainable. Speaking for all Texans, I want to thank you and your fellow peace officers for the risks you take in our defense and express our gratitude to the families you kiss goodbye as you head out to work every day.
You and your families deserve the best we can give you because you certainly give your best to your communities.
The safety and inspiration you provide are the mortar that binds the foundation of our free society and I thank you for your courageous service.
May God bless you and, through you, may He continue to bless the Great State of Texas.