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Texas Border Program Has Little to Show for Lots of Cost, Effort

Texas' Operation Lone Star has inundated the U.S.-Mexico border with thousands of Texas state troopers and National Guardsmen, started work on a state-controlled border wall and built a new skeleton justice system with its own courts, judges and jails to lodge misdemeanor state trespassing charges against migrants. But, after two years and billions of dollars in the most aggressive attempt by any state to take control over federal border security, Texas has little to show for its efforts, the Wall Street Journal reports. The area of the border most heavily targeted by Operation Lone Star has seen the most rapid increases in illegal border crossings in the state since the operation began. Thousands of arrests by state troopers under the program have been unrelated to border security, and instead netted U.S. citizens hundreds of miles from the border. Arrests of migrants trespassing on private property have generally not affected their immigration cases, and courts have found many of the arrests made in the first two years to be discriminatory and invalidated them.

Arrests by Operation Lone Star personnel in that section of the border amount to about 1% of the encounters there by Border Patrol in the same time frame, or about 11,000 added to the Border Patrol’s 850,000. Still, with more than $9.5 billion spent and allocated through 2025, Texas is doubling down on its strategy. Even as total numbers of illegal crossings have plummeted recently, Gov. Greg Abbott asked other states to send their National Guard soldiers and police officers to Texas, and more than a dozen other Republican governors have responded. Texas has also recently begun making trespassing arrests in public parks and erected a floating barrier in the middle of the Rio Grande that has attracted the ire of federal officials on both sides of the border. Operation Lone Star was launched to address dangerous gaps in federal border security, said Andrew Mahaleris, a spokesman for Abbott. He said federal policies allowed illegal migration plus drugs and weapons to cross the border. The governor continues to promote the operation, sending out weekly news releases with updates and arrest numbers. “Texas has pushed back against the swell of migrants and held the line to keep people out of Texas,” Abbott said as he announced the new floating barrier last month.


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