Operation Lone Star marks one year amid controversy, allegations

Gov. Greg Abbott's Operation Lone Star is marking its one-year anniversary.

Officially launched on March 4, 2021, the operation integrates Texas DPS assets, including Texas Highway Patrol Troopers, Special Agents, Texas Rangers, Rotary and Fixed Winged Aircraft and Tactical Boat Teams, along with the Texas National Guard and local law enforcement to secure the border, says Abbott's office.

What has Operation Lone Star accomplished?

Abbott's office says that these efforts have led to more than 208,000 migrant apprehensions, along with more than 11,800 charges for criminal offenses—including more than 9,300 felony charges. 

DPS has also reportedly arrested sex offenders, weapons traffickers, previously convicted and deported criminal immigrants, drug dealers, and other wanted criminals. In the fight against fentanyl, DPS has seized over 269 million lethal doses throughout the state, says Abbott's office.

Since its inception, Abbott says he has taken additional actions in relation to the operation:

Additional actions taken by Abbott to secure the border include:

Allegations concerning constitutionality and working conditions

Operation Lone Star has also raised concerns about its constitutionality and working conditions for members of the Texas Army National Guard following several reported suicides.

In January, a Travis County judge ruled that part of Operation Lone Star was unconstitutional as it "violated the Supremacy Clause of the United States Constitution and represents an impermissible attempt to intrude on federal immigration policy," said Travis County DA José Garza at the time.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has vowed to fight the ruling saying "We have the right to defend our border if the feds refuse."

The Army Times raised questions in December about the operation, especially conditions for members of the Texas Army National Guard following four suicides. Later the Texas Tribune reported that another soldier had shot and killed himself in an alcohol-related accident, just days after another soldier assigned to the mission survived a suicide attempt between Christmas and New Year's Day.

State Rep. Alex Dominguez (D-Brownsville) stated in an op-ed in the Army Times that he has submitted formal letters to the governor, House General Investigations chairman State Rep. Matt Krause (R-Fort Worth) and the Texas Military Department asking for investigations into the suicides, recommendations on how to legislatively resolve the administrative failures of the operation, and a moratorium on additional deployments until such investigations conclude and recommendations are made.

According to the Texas Tribune, troops at the border say they have faced a deluge of problems when they were mobilized — some of which have been slowly improving in recent weeks:

  • As many as 1 in 5 troops in the 6,500-strong "operational force" who have been sent to the border have reported problems with their pay, including being paid late, too little or not at all for months
  • Service members say they have struggled with shortages of critical equipment, including cold weather gear, medical equipment and plates for their ballistic vests
  • Many are living in cramped trailers with dozens of troops
  • Some say they feel underutilized and rarely see migrants while working isolated observation posts that in some cases lacked portable toilets for months

The Texas Military Department posted a release in January refuting some of these claims to "set the record straight to ensure accurate reporting on this mission".

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