Texas Launches Operation to Counter Growing Crisis at Southern Border

Texas Launches Operation to Counter Growing Crisis at Southern Border
Illegal immigrant families wait for their bus at a bus station in Brownsville, Texas, before traveling to meet relatives or sponsors on March 2, 2021. (Sergio Flores/AFP/Getty Images)
Janita Kan

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched a program on March 6 that will deploy state National Guard troops and personnel from other agencies to respond to the burgeoning crisis at the southern border.

Abbott says Operation Lone Star, in collaboration with the state’s Department of Public Safety, will deploy air, ground, marine, and tactical border security assets to prevent Mexican criminal organizations from smuggling drugs and people into Texas.

“Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans,” Abbott said in a statement to media outlets on March 6.

“We will surge the resources and law enforcement personnel needed to confront this crisis.”

The announcement comes as the number of illegal crossings at the southern border continues its steady rise since October of last year. The number of encounters at the southwest border between October 2020 and January 2021 was 296,259, an increase from 164,932 during the year-earlier period, according to data from the U.S. Custom and Border Patrol (CBP), representing a 79.6 percent increase.
Meanwhile, Reuters has reported, citing anonymous sources, that the number of illegal immigrants apprehended by U.S. border agents spiked even further for the month of February, at nearly 100,000 detained. CBP has yet to release its February data.

Since taking office, Biden has reversed several Trump-era border security measures that sought to stem the flow of illegal immigration at the southern border and increase America’s public security.

A sharp increase in unaccompanied minors arriving at the border in recent weeks has prompted the Biden administration to open more overflow shelters to handle the influx. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said on March 1 that instead of “expelling young children” to Mexico while processing their asylum claims, as was done under the Trump administration, DHS is working to release minors to relatives or sponsors in the United States if the minors are from Guatemala, Honduras, or El Salvador.
Some of the immigration policies that Biden implemented include temporarily ending former President Donald Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, which sent illegal immigrants back to Mexico while their cases were decided. He has also reversed Trump’s ban on travel from terror-prone countries, halted the remaining construction of the border wall, and has issued a sweeping immigration package to Congress that offers a legalization pathway to an estimated 11 million illegal immigrants already in the country.

These actions have drawn widespread criticism, in particular, from Trump.

“Our border is now totally out of control, thanks to the disastrous leadership of Joe Biden,” Trump wrote in a statement released March 5 through an intermediary.

“Our great Border Patrol and ICE agents have been disrespected, demeaned, and mocked by the Biden Administration,” Trump said, referring to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

“A mass incursion into the country by people who should not be here is happening on an hourly basis, getting worse by the minute. Many have criminal records, and many others have and are spreading COVID,” he wrote.

Earlier this month, a large group of migrants seeking to cross the U.S.–Mexico border held a demonstration in Mexico calling for Biden to let them into the United States.

Biden hasn’t yet acknowledged the crisis or announced any concrete plans to address the growing numbers of illegal crossings. When asked by a reporter this week whether there’s a crisis at the border, Biden replied, “No, we’ll be able to handle it.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) sent a letter to Biden on March 5 requesting a meeting to address the issue, saying he has “great concern” about how his administration is handling the border crisis.

“We must acknowledge the border crisis, develop a plan, and, in no uncertain terms, strongly discourage individuals from Mexico and Central America from ever making the dangerous journey to our southern border,” McCarthy wrote (pdf).

Ivan Pentchoukov and Isabel van Brugen contributed to this report.