A Texas Guardsman and a Customs and Border Patrol agent stand near the shores of the Rio Grande River in Starr County, Texas as part of the federal call-up to the Texas Mexico border in April 2018.

A Texas Guardsman and a Customs and Border Patrol agent stand near the shores of the Rio Grande River in Starr County, Texas as part of the federal call-up to the Texas Mexico border in April 2018. (Mark Otte/Texas Military Department)

Texas National Guard troops now have the authority to arrest migrants who cross the state’s border with Mexico, according to an order issued Tuesday by Gov. Greg Abbott.

Guard troops will work with state police to conduct arrests along the Texas southern border.

“This partnership will strengthen our efforts to secure the border and keep our communities safe,” Abbott said about his latest effort to target what he describes as a crisis at the border created by immigration policies relaxed by President Joe Biden.

Abbott ordered the troops to begin making arrests in a letter sent Tuesday to Maj. Gen. Tracy Norris, adjutant general of the Texas Military Department. The Texas Department of Public Safety recently began arresting migrants on trespassing charges and the order to Guard troops is meant to support that effort.

“To respond to this disaster and secure the rule of law at our southern border, more manpower is needed — in addition to the troopers from the Texas Department of Public Safety and soldiers from the Texas National Guard I have already deployed there — and DPS needs help in arresting those who are violating state law,” Abbott wrote to Norris.

He cited several state laws in the letter to support the order as well as his ability as governor to “call forth the militia to execute the laws of the state.”

Abbott deployed about 500 Texas National Guard troops to the border under state orders to help law enforcement. He also sent about 1,000 state police to the southern region of the state as part of an emergency declaration.

The state-controlled troops are in addition to about 3,800 troops deployed under federal orders to support the Department of Homeland Security across the entire U.S. border with Mexico.

In June, Abbott put out a plea for support from other states. South Dakota and Arkansas answered by sending about 50 National Guard troops each. He has also taken former President Donald Trump on a tour of his efforts to secure the border in Texas, as well as other Republican governors.

That same month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents encountered more than 188,000 people across the entire southwest border — the highest numbers of fiscal 2021, which runs from Oct. 1, 2020, until Sept. 30, according to department’s data.

All arrests are occurring in Val Verde County for those people found in violation of criminal trespass law, according to the Department of Public Safety. Violators are being processed at the Dolph Briscoe Unit, a previously empty state prison in the town of Dilley, about 85 miles north of the border town of Laredo.

As of Thursday, 10 people were being held there, but the facility could support up to 950, The Associated Press reported.

“We are grateful to the Texas National Guard for their assistance with arresting individuals for state charges related to the border crisis,” Rachael Pierce, spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, said in a statement. “While the department does not discuss operational specifics, we will integrate our partners into Operation Lone Star as appropriate.”

The Texas Military Department did not immediately respond to questions about the new order.

author picture
Rose L. Thayer is based in Austin, Texas, and she has been covering the western region of the continental U.S. for Stars and Stripes since 2018. Before that she was a reporter for Killeen Daily Herald and a freelance journalist for publications including The Alcalde, Texas Highways and the Austin American-Statesman. She is the spouse of an Army veteran and a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in journalism. Her awards include a 2021 Society of Professional Journalists Washington Dateline Award and an Honorable Mention from the Military Reporters and Editors Association for her coverage of crime at Fort Hood.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now