More than 7,000 illegal immigrants have been arrested by Texas state agencies since Operation Lone Star began this spring, and thanks to the way the project works, not even the Biden administration can release them.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott created Operation Lone Star as a counterpoint to the feeble attempts by the Biden administration to curb the flood of illegal immigration that’s inundating Texas border communities.
Although immigration violations are the sole purview of the federal government, Operation Lone Star arrests illegal immigrants for the state crimes they commit – from trespassing to drug possession. That means that the Biden administration cannot simply allow these illegal immigrants to be charged and then released into the interior of the U.S.
Operation Lone Star personnel include the Texas Department of Public Safety as well as the state’s National Guard.
“The governor has directed DPS troopers to enforce all federal and state criminal laws, including criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking, and in July ordered National Guard soldiers to begin assisting DPS with arresting individuals for state charges related to the border crisis,” Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said in a statement Thursday to the Corpus Christi Caller Times.
Guard troops and officers with the Department of Public Safety have apprehended more 73,000 migrants since Operation Lone Star began, filing state charges against 7,700 of them.
Texas DPS Director Steven McCraw told the Center for Immigration Studies for a post published last week that 3,000 fully trained National Guard troops are now helping hold the border. The plan to divide responsibility envisions that the Guard will make arrests and turn those arrested over to the DPS to have charges filed.
“Nobody’s ever really used the guard before in this capacity,” McCraw said. “We’re going to use them to actually secure the border. The governor, the legislature, and the citizens of Texas have made it very clear; they want the border secure. It is good for our federal partner as well. The federal government should be thanking the state of Texas, and it’ll make the rest of the country safer as we increase the level of security.”
McCraw said that the unprecedented partnership will deter crime.
“We will soon be in a position to actually deter transnational crime, rather than react to it after it spreads throughout the state and nation,” McCraw said.
Guard members patrol the border fully armed, with training on the use of deadly force.
“It’s not like they’re out there by themselves,” McCraw said. “Our troopers will always be close and provide the necessary support when an arrest is made by a soldier and work closely with the local prosecutor where the arrest occurs.”
Since March, DPS officers with Operation Lone Star have seized over 10,000 pounds of marijuana; over 1,500 pounds of cocaine; over 1,500 pounds of methamphetamine; over 130 pounds of fentanyl; over 34 pounds of heroin and $5.3 million in currency, according to the website BorderReport.
“The Texas National Guard is surging personnel, equipment and capabilities to the Texas and Mexico border region in support of Operation Lone Star,” Brig. Gen. Monie R. Ulis, Operation Lone Star commander, said at a weekly briefing Thursday, according to a news release on the Texas Department of Public Safety website.
“As we build our force, we remain ready to detect, block and apprehend individuals and groups conducting illegal activity,” he said.
At the briefing, Texas DPS officials noted two Oct. 15 arrests. In one case, a previously deported felon who was part of a group of five illegal immigrants was arrested with 32 package of cocaine. In the other, 34 firearms, 3.4 grams of cocaine, 12 ounces of marijuana, 21 ounces of methamphetamine, 8.3 grams of Xanax, 16 ounces of promethazine, 4.5 grams of LSD and 496 grams of THC oils and edibles were seized.