Texas lawmakers approved $3 billion last year to fund Gov. Greg Abbott’s (R) controversial state border mission, Operation Lone Star, but that money has already run dry, the Texas Military Department told a state Senate panel.
The Texas Legislature allocated $412 million to the TMD for Operation Lone Star and state officials transferred over another $480 million to keep the operation going through the spring, but the military department said it will need another $531 million by May 1 to keep the mission going through the end of the fiscal year in September, The Texas Tribune reported Tuesday. State troopers are also involved in the operation.
“I think, quite frankly, you can do the same job, border security, with a lot less troops,” state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, the only Democrat on the three-person Senate Border Security Committee and a supporter of the deployment, told Texas military officials. “I really don’t understand the number of having to use 10,000 National Guard troops for border security.”
Operation Lone Star has been marred by low morale, late paydays, and questions about its effectiveness, but Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, appointed the Texas Military Department’s new leader in March, told the committee things are getting better.
State Sen. Bob Hall (R) asked Suelzer about the rash of suicides tied to Operation Lone Star last year. Suelzer said “every suicide’s a tragedy” and “we need to do better,” but the Texas Army National Guard’s suicide death rate has been below the Pentagon and Army National Guard rate for two of the last three years. “The general omitted that the state’s worst year of the three had been 2021,” the Tribune notes, when the Texas National Guard’s suicide rate was nearly double the National Guard average nationwide.
Abbott says his operation has had success against drug trafficking and violence. But the plurality or majority of arrests from Operation Lone Star have been for misdemeanor trespassing on private property, Abbott’s solution to sidestep constitutional restrictions on states enforcing border policy, the Tribune and ProPublica reported Monday.
Those arrests have clogged local prisons and overwhelmed the justice systems of the participating counties, leading to migrants and asylum seekers spending months in jail awaiting trial or even charges, the Tribune reports. “There is also little evidence that trespassing arrests have lowered the levels of illegal crossings, which remain at record highs along the southern U.S. border, including in the regions heavily targeted by the operation.”