EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Migrant advocacy groups want the Texas National Guard out of El Paso, and they’re also calling on local officials to pass a resolution opposing Gov. Greg Abbott’s use of taxpayers’ money to fund Operation Lone Star.
In a Wednesday news conference, the groups led by Border Network for Human Rights (BNHR) accused Abbott of surging Texas Department of Public Safety troopers to the region not to safeguard border communities, as he says, but to use migrants as a political prop.
“What Gov. Abbott is doing in enforcing immigration laws in Texas is unconstitutional and illegal,” said Fernando Garcia, executive director for BNHR. “Gov. Abbott has spent close to $8 billion on this wrongful, racist, anti-immigrant agenda in Texas. (Operation) Lone Star and Gov. Abbott have transformed Texas into the epicenter of the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee, racist agenda in the nation.”
Garcia and leaders of groups like Texas Rising and Reform Immigration for Texas Alliance are pressing El Paso city and county officials to sponsor and approve a resolution against the use of public funds for Operation Lone Star. The groups also plan to launch a statewide awareness campaign condemning the state law enforcement surge on the border and will ask the Biden administration to sue Texas for allegedly “usurping federal powers by enforcing immigration laws.”
Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021 in response to a rise in illegal immigration that would eventually reach historic levels along the Texas-Mexico border. DPS troopers and Texas National Guard troops have been deployed to 48 Texas counties covered by a state disaster declaration. Their instructions are to prevent criminal activity on the border including trespassing, smuggling and human trafficking.
During his inaugural address on Tuesday, Abbott said the Biden administration is “missing in action,” and that Texas is using every tool to protect the state.
“Make no mistake, the border is a crisis for one simple reason. The Biden Administration is not enforcing the laws already on the books. As a result, more illegal immigrants crossed our border last year than ever before,” Abbott said. “In fact, over the past two years, more illegal immigrants crossed the border than the populations of Austin, El Paso, and Houston combined.”
Abbott touted the state’s border security efforts, which also include building a state-funded wall and targeting Mexican drug cartels that traffic people, weapons, and drugs into our state.
National Guard troops arrived in El Paso last month and set up camp on the U.S. banks of the Rio Grande. Their military vehicles, a mile-long temporary fence that includes barbwire in places, and a barrier of shipping containers along a gap in the border wall can still be seen west of the Paso del Norte Port of Entry.
Former Texas state Rep. Jose Rodriguez said the state law enforcement surge is meant to intimidate migrants and those who provide humanitarian assistance to them.
“(Abbott) is not following the rule of law in regard to migrants seeking asylum. Asylum is part of the law. Regardless of how the migrants got here, presented themselves at the border, if they are seeking asylum, our laws say we should give them due process,” Rodriguez said. “I am distressed, disappointed, angered, outraged for (Abbott) militarizing the border further.”
Border Report on Wednesday reached out for comment from state officials and is awaiting a response.
The group Texans for Abbott this week tweeted the results of Operation Lone Star over the past two years as reported by the governor’s office. They include 23,000 arrests, 356 million fentanyl doses seized and 16,600 paroled migrants bused to so-called sanctuary cities in the U.S.