Members of the Texas National Guard patrol the Rio Grande to look for illegal activity along the state’s border with Mexico as part of the state-sponsored mission Operation Lone Star.

Members of the Texas National Guard patrol the Rio Grande to look for illegal activity along the state’s border with Mexico as part of the state-sponsored mission Operation Lone Star. (Texas Gov. Greg Abbott)

AUSTIN, Texas — Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee authorized 100 troops from the state’s National Guard to deploy along the Texas border with Mexico following a briefing of the situation with other Republican governors, Lee’s office said Wednesday.

The troops will deploy to Texas at the end of the month “amid an ongoing national security crisis and surging drug crisis being fueled by an open border,” according to Lee’s announcement.

Lee was among a group of nine governors who participated Monday in a presentation from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in Austin about his border security mission known as Operation Lone Star and the impact this month’s lifting of pandemic-era policies has had on it.

The public health policy, known as Title 42, allowed federal border agents to quickly expel migrants over concern that they would spread the coronavirus. That policy ended May 11 as the country continues to move away from the emergency pandemic measures put into place in 2020.

Department of Homeland Security officials feared the lifting of Title 42 would lead to an increase in legal and illegal border crossings. However, a surge has not yet been reported.

Abbott penned a letter May 16 to governors across the country to support his security mission that focuses on illegal activity between legal ports of entry. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is now a Republican candidate for president, responded immediately by sending 800 National Guard troops to support Texas for 30 days, among other assets from his state.

Idaho Gov. Brad Little also announced last week that he would send resources to Texas that includes law enforcement personnel but not National Guard troops. Little also attended Abbott’s briefing Monday.

“The federal government owes Americans a plan to secure our country, and in the meantime, states continue to answer this important call to service. I am again authorizing the Tennessee National Guard to help secure the southern border, and I commend these troops for providing critical support,” Lee said in a statement.

Tennessee’s troops will patrol and provide additional security presence along the border, assist with road and route clearance, barrier placement and debris removal, and staff outposts, Lee’s office said.

Roughly 5,500 Texas National Guard members are deployed to Operation Lone Star, which began about two years ago. At its peak in late 2021, Abbott said about 10,000 Guard members were deployed by him.

This work is separate from a federal National Guard mission at the border. The Defense Department has deployed about 2,500 National Guard troops working along the entire southwest border with Mexico to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The department is deploying an additional 1,500 active-duty troops to spend 60 days at the border to help with any increased migration since Title 42 expired.

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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.

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