Texas deploys more than 500 additional troops to Mexico border ahead of migration policy changes
Stars and Stripes May 8, 2023
AUSTIN, Texas — More than 500 additional National Guard troops from Texas will deploy to the state’s border with Mexico as an increase in migration and illegal activity is expected when pandemic-era immigration policies end this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Monday.
Speaking at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport where Texas Guard members were busy loading C-130 aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters, Abbott said the troops will deploy to areas along the Rio Grande where there are increases of illegal activity including drugs and weapons smuggling and human trafficking.
The 545 troops deploying are part of a newly formed Texas Tactical Border Force, he said. They joined roughly 5,000 Texas Guard troops already deployed to the state’s border with Mexico on a two-year-old mission known as Operation Lone Star.
“America is not open to people who are trying to come here illegally,” Abbott said. “Texas is doing more than any state in the history of the United States of America to defend our border.”
The increase is part of local, state and federal government officials preparing for the lifting of a public health policy on Thursday that was enacted during the coronavirus pandemic. Known as Title 42, the policy allowed U.S. border officials to quickly turn away migrants crossing the border from Mexico for fear that they would spread the virus.
An increase in legal and illegal migration is expected once the policy expires, and Abbott said there could be as many as 13,000 people crossing from Mexico into the U.S. daily.
The Pentagon last week approved the 90-day deployment of 1,500 active-duty Marines and soldiers to deploy across the southwest U.S. border to increase support to an ongoing mission with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. They join about 2,500 National Guard members already supporting Border Patrol in non-law enforcement activities.
In contrast, the Texas troops are “assisting local and state law enforcement agencies to secure the border, stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Texas, and prevent, detect and interdict transnational criminal behavior between the ports of entry,” the Texas Military Department said in a statement.
Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, commander of the Texas National Guard who spoke alongside Abbott on Monday, said the deployment is in addition to about 200 troops sent last month to El Paso to help build 22 miles of barbed wire fencing along the border.
The new troops deploying this week include military police and drone teams, he said.
“I had the honor of eating dinner with these troops last night. I can tell you, the morale is high and their dedication to the state of Texas is inspirational,” Suelzer said.
In addition to aircraft and drones, Abbott said the troops were provided boats, night vision equipment and riot gear “for anything they may encounter.”