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:
- March 17, 2021: Expanded OLS to include efforts to crack down on human trafficking and illegal border crossings by directing state agencies to work with local law enforcement, communities and private landowners to prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal activity flowing between the ports of entry
- May 31, 2021: Issued a disaster declaration for counties along Texas’ southern border to free up additional resources and to direct the Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) not to provide state licensing for the federal government’s program of housing unaccompanied children
- June 10, 2021: Held a Border Security Summit in Del Rio with leaders from DPS, the Texas National Guard, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management, Texas sheriffs, police chiefs, county judges, mayors, district attorneys, and landowners to hear from state officials
- June 2021: Announced DPS would begin arresting individuals trespassing on private property as well as plans to construct a border wall in Texas
- July 2021: Opened the first jail booking facility of its kind in the state in Val Verde County where individuals arrested for committing border-related crimes in the surrounding region are booked and magistrated, then transferred to the Briscoe or Segovia TDCJ Unit
- July 28, 2021: Issued an executive order restricting the ground transportation of migrants due to COVID-19.
- September 2021: Announced availability of $100 million in grants for local governments to enhance interagency border security operations supporting OLS and signed House Bill 9 into law to provide an additional $1.8 billion in state funding for border security over the next two years
- February 2022: Launched a second jail booking facility in Jim Hogg County
Additional actions taken by Abbott to secure the border include:
- Signing a law to make it easier to prosecute smugglers bringing people into Texas
- Signing 15 laws cracking down on human trafficking in Texas
- Signing a law enhancing penalties for the manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl
- Taking legal action to enforce the Remain in Mexico and Title 42 policies in Texas
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.
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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