Gov. Perry: Lack of Security at Texas-Mexico Border a 'National Disgrace,' Some Illegals Have 'Very Close Ties to Al Qaeda'

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," May 24, 2011. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Right now, we are live in south Texas. On the Record" is at ground zero, the fight on America's border with Mexico. Many say this is a war zone. And we're coming to you live from the Texas Ranger recon headquarters mobile command center in Edinburg, Texas. And you are at the center of the action. Both tonight and tomorrow night, you will see what's really happening here from high above in the air and on the ground. It is the most illegally-crossed international border in the world.

And Governor Rick Perry of Texas is here to tell us what is and isn't being done to secure the border. The governor and President Obama do not see eye-to-eye, and he is here to tell us why. Joining us is Texas Governor Rick Perry. And Governor, I could almost feel you sitting next to me with that report on Dallas we first heard. That just happened in your state.

GOV. RICK PERRY, R-TEXAS: Yes. And you know, it's personal with me in a sense just being the governor. It's -- my children live there. And so we have our prayers for everyone up in that part of the state.

You know, disasters are part of Texas. We have monstrously big hurricanes, tornadoes that can hit any time. I talked to Jay Nixon up in Missouri this morning...

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    VAN SUSTEREN: The governor ...

    PERRY: ... and he's having that same type of event that he's having to deal with in Joplin, Missouri. I offered him any assistance that we could -- that we could have or be able to give them. So you know, there's always something going on in Texas. And again, our prayers are with everyone up in Dallas today as we deal with a lot of different events, whether it's a border that's very porous, things going on. You know, right behind us is...

    VAN SUSTEREN: ... helicopter just landed (INAUDIBLE)

    PERRY: ... one of our tactical teams that's just coming in from right across the way, over on the Rio Grande. And that is, unfortunately, an average day in Texas -- 2.7 million acres of land that has been destroyed by wildfires, obviously, a border that is under almost constant attack from those that would...

    VAN SUSTEREN: But here's the difference...

    PERRY: ... try to penetrate through...

    VAN SUSTEREN: That tornado, you could not anticipate. You know, it - - you know, it surprised you and everybody else. Maybe you have a couple hours notice. What's going on behind us where the helicopter just went out to try to do something that -- he is trying to prevent something that's quite predictable. And you and the president don't see eye-to-eye on this one.

    PERRY: Well, not at all. As a matter of fact, I was very disheartened when the president came into El Paso a couple of weeks ago, had a photo-op out at the city of El Paso and proclaimed that the border was as safe as it's ever been.

    And that's just nonsense. You ask these men and women who are putting their lives on the line every night, the border patrol agents, the ICE agents, the Texas Department of Public Safety, folks in that helicopter, our SWAT teams that are out there, the local law enforcement.

    All of those individuals know that this border not only is porous, but the people that are coming across this border we have no idea -- well, unfortunately, we do know where some of them are from, and they are from countries that have very close ties to al Qaeda, whether it's Yemeni or Afghanistan, Pakistan, China. It is an absolute national disgrace.

    VAN SUSTEREN: The thing that surprised me today is that I always knew there was drugs and guns and smuggling of humans back and forth here. What I hadn't realized until I talked to your people today is how many different nationalities come across this border illegally. That's what surprised me. And of course, you know, there are some that are red flags -- countries like Pakistan or Yemen, of course. We all -- you know, we don't want to be alarmist, but those happen to be countries that have been most unfriendly, to put it politely.

    PERRY: We have now for upwards of five or six years been going to Washington, D.C., explaining to Congress, administrations that we have a real and a serious and a present danger that has to be addressed. Some 12 Democrat sheriffs, people who are not in my political party, went with us to Washington a few years back to share the story about what's happening on that border. And it's only gotten worse.

    We know that there has to be more boots on the ground. You saw a wall today, a fence being built.

    VAN SUSTEREN: Yes, from the helicopter.

    PERRY: And you asked the question, "Is that effective?" And the director of the Department of Public Safety said no. This is in a very rural area and...

    VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there are gaps in the fence. I mean -- - I mean, it wasn't even a question of going over the fence.

    PERRY: Yes.

    VAN SUSTEREN: There were gaps. You didn't even have to get a ladder.

    PERRY: If you don't have boots on the ground, you cannot defend that border. That's a key issue here.

    VAN SUSTEREN: And can you tell that to President Obama, or won't he hear from you?

    PERRY: You know, I hope the President of the United States would hear from the president of -- or excuse me, the governor of the second largest state in our nation...

    VAN SUSTEREN: Does he?

    PERRY: ... a 1,200-mile border with Mexico. We correspond, but I don't know whether he listens. I don't know whether he hears. But the issue is, you've got an entire administration and a Congress that has been reluctant to do what it takes.


    PERRY: I have no idea. I can't answer the -- the...

    VAN SUSTEREN: Because the drugs that come through here end up in Milwaukee. They end up in Chicago. They end up in Boston. They end up in Idaho. They end up all across the country. I mean...

    PERRY: These are poisons that are showing up in our children's bloodstream. And they're poisoning a generation of Americans. So why wouldn't we do everything that we can to defend that border from those dug cartels that have operational control of a substantial amount of that border?

    VAN SUSTEREN: Are the cartels in Mexico?

    PERRY: Well, certainly, they're in Mexico, but here's the scary part. They're also in Dallas. They're also in San Antonio...

    VAN SUSTEREN: I meant Texas.

    PERRY: They've been in Austin.

    VAN SUSTEREN: I meant Texas.

    PERRY: They're -- they're all -- and we're starting to see them as operational cells, if you will...

    VAN SUSTEREN: In Texas.

    PERRY: ... in these cities. It's one of the reasons I'm so upset, frustrated with the Department of Homeland Security. Grants that should be coming to the states to assist with this type of border security, and they're cutting them, rather than beefing them up. That's what I'm worried about, is that as bad as that is today, it's only going to get worse because the cartels see this administration basically saying, "The border's safe, don't worry about anything."

    VAN SUSTEREN: Governor, thank you. And I know that you've got to check on Dallas.

    PERRY: Yes, we do.

    VAN SUSTEREN: You got a long night ahead of you. Thank you, Governor.

    And to the viewers -- there is so much more tonight and again tomorrow night. You're going to get the behind-the-scenes look at where the governor took us today, right to the action right on the border. And right now, though, you'll see where our day did begin, in the briefing room with Governor Perry.


    PERRY: The Department of Homeland Security is cutting the grants in Austin, San Antonio, one other major metropolitan...


    PERRY: El Paso.


    PERRY: I mean, three places where you ought to be increasing the funding to go after these drug cartels, they're cutting them. So again, just, you know, some very strong evidence of either they don't know or they don't care about what's going on on this border.

    VAN SUSTEREN: When President Obama was here last week, he was talking illegal immigration and immigration. Did he at all speak to you or reach out to you? Or have you been able to communicate with him at all on the problem?

    PERRY: This last trip through, they offered us to meet on the tarmac at the airport in El Paso. You know, that's about 400 miles for a 10- minute conversation that I knew was not going to be substantive. We declined.

    He was also coming to Austin, and I offered to meet with him in Austin, as much time as he would like to have at any venue. And he declined. And the reason his -- I don't know what his declination was. But he declined to meet with us in Austin. That would have made a lot of sense to me. He was coming to Austin anyway. But this president either does not know or does not care what is going on on the border of Texas.

    VAN SUSTEREN: We do have the access nationally. If we -- if someone declared war on us, we'd have access in a second. I'm not sure that the federal government has been down here and sees what all of you tell me. I think that's the probably because I think if they had that sort of sense of urgency that all of you give me in the room, I think the assets would be here. And that's why I asked if they spoke to you when you were here, if they -- you know, if they walked the border with you. Who's walked the border with you?

    PERRY: I can't tell you if there's been a federal official walk this border with any sense of time (ph) in my tenure as being the governor. Now, I know that administrative officials have come here. Two weeks ago, the border was a handy photo-op. But the fact is, the president left here with no more knowledge about what's going on in Texas than before he got here. Now, he left Austin with some money, but he didn't leave here with any more knowledge about what's going on in Texas.

    VAN SUSTEREN: When I -- I've been here for just a little bit of time, and I've seen Doc's pictures. They're ugly. They're things that he finds out on his ranch. I would think if the federal government had that information, they might have a slightly more -- have a greater sense of urgency. And if they knew the different -- if they knew the number of nationalities that are coming through here -- it's not just drugs. It's not just -- I mean, there's a lot to this.

    PERRY: Greta, I will tell you that the federal government knows this information. This is not something closely held in this command post. This is information that...


    VAN SUSTEREN: What's the problem?

    PERRY: I think America's asking the same question. Why does this administration not actively secure this border?

    VAN SUSTEREN: (INAUDIBLE) will if something catastrophic happens.

    PERRY: Well...

    VAN SUSTEREN: That's the problem. That's the problem. If...

    PERRY: Unfortunately, that is what I deal with every day. I don't want the people of the state of Texas to have to be the catalyst that finally gets the administration to understand that there is great terror on our southern border.


    VAN SUSTEREN: And that is just the beginning of our trip with Governor Perry. And what is really being done on the border? "On the Record" cameras take you in the air to a place you've never even seen on the ground.