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Gov. Abbott deploys additional National Guard units to border ahead of Title 42’s expiration

Members of the Texas National Guard stand at the Austin airport as they await deployment to the Texas-Mexico border May 8, 2023.
Sergio Martínez-Beltrán
Members of the Texas National Guard stand at the Austin airport as they await deployment to the Texas-Mexico border May 8, 2023.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Monday a ramping up of his state-led border operation and claimed cartels are “collaborating” with the Biden administration to create an open border in Texas.

Against the backdrop of hundreds of Texas National Guard units boarding military airplanes at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, Abbott announced the deployment of a new operations unit in anticipation of the border health policy known as Title 42 ending later this week. The pandemic-era public health order allows for the rapid expulsion of some migrants who cross into the U.S.

In a brief news conference, the governor continued placing blame with the Biden administration with one of the sharpest rebukes to date.

“While Texas is doing everything possible to try and stop people from crossing the border, at the very same time the president of the United States is putting out the welcome mat, welcoming them in,” Abbott said. “The cartels know it is the federal government that controls the immigration process. The cartels are working in collaboration with President Biden and the federal government to facilitate the [illegally] crossed border. We are being overrun by our own federal government.”

The new team being deployed, called the Texas Tactical Border Force, will consist of specially trained members of the National Guard, Abbott said. They will be stationed up and down the border in “hot spots” and work to “intercept, to repel and to turn back” migrants, the governor explained.

This deployment builds on Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, which began in March 2021 and has sent thousands of Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and National Guard units to the border.

Abbott said the new operation will be similar to what took place in El Paso in December, when National Guard units set up barriers and concertina wire on the north side of the Rio Grande to prevent migrants from turning themselves into Border Patrol. Since then, Abbott said the barriers have remained effective, despite the El Paso sector of the U.S. Border Patrol witnessing an influx of migrants into its city streets over the last few weeks.

Abbott said a similar hot spot was recently sealed off near Brownsville, although that area has also seen an increase of migrants recently.

“It’s projects like that that this elite national Guard team that will be focused on,” he said. “They will be deployed with the equipment and tools that they need to be effective.” Abbott said that equipment includes air and marine equipment and riot gear.

Abbott then stressed that he hoped state lawmakers would pass several bills currently under consideration in the Texas Legislature before members gavel out later this month. That legislation includes a proposal that would make it a felony to enter Texas illegally from Mexico, and a separate measure that would mandate a 10-year prison sentence for human smugglers.

The Texas House is also scheduled to debate proposed legislation on Tuesday that would create a new border law enforcement unit.

Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw joined Abbott on Monday and said his agency also plans to deploy additional enhanced tactical and field units to “hold the line” and ensure migrants only cross at legally designated points of entry.

The announcement comes a day after a person in Brownsville killed eight people and injured at least nine others at a bus stop near a migrant shelter. Abbott said police were still investigating whether the act was intentional as several migrants were at the bus stop waiting to travel beyond the border, Texas Public Radio reported.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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Julián Aguilar