AUSTIN (KXAN/Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott announced the state is deploying more Texas National Guard members to the United States-Mexico border on Monday in anticipation of the expiration of Title 42, a pandemic-era immigration policy used to expel migrants.
The governor made the announcement during a press conference at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport where Texas military aircraft took off to “hot spots” along the border.
“They will be deployed to hotspots along the border to intercept, to repel and to turn back migrants who are trying to enter Texas illegally,” Abbott said.
The deployment of the “specially trained” unit comes as state and federal leaders are bracing for a potential influx of migrants when Title 42 restrictions expire later this week. Already, border communities like El Paso have declared a state of emergency in anticipation of even more migrants coming.
Title 42 allows Border Patrol agents to expel migrants seeking asylum. It’s a public health policy with roots in preventing the spread of disease. Former President Donald Trump invoked the policy to deter migration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Abbott said the Biden administration estimates around 13,000 people will come across the border illegally on a daily basis once Title 42 expires.
Ariel Ruiz Soto, a policy analyst at the Migration Policy Institute, said that Title 42 was never supposed to be a long-term solution to the complex issues surrounding immigration and border security.
“It was never meant to be sustainable. It really doesn’t have the capacity and it didn’t have the buy-in from the different authorities to try to make that case,” he said. “Instead, what really is needed to try to have better control of the U.S. Mexico border is a broader cooperation, interagency operations…together at the border to try to process these cases more quickly.”
Dr. Elaine Wood, an immigration attorney for the Hayman-Woodward law firm, said the efficacy of Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” remains to be seen, but expects if anything the expansion of OLS will add pressure to the Biden administration to ramp up its resources.
“I think that Governor Abbott’s announcement could put pressure on the federal government to take stronger actions to address border security,” she said. “I think that Biden administration is going to continue to see pressure on migrants and trying to deter them from attempting to cross the border.”
The governor’s office said Monday’s deployment of about 450 guard members will be in addition to the “thousands already deployed as part of Operation Lone Star and serve on the new border force for targeted responses as the nation braces for an expected spike in illegal immigration.”
“The Texas Department of Public Safety is increasing resources at the border, and we are deploying hundreds of troopers around the state, including enhanced tactical teams and field force operations teams, to hold the line,” said DPS Director Steven McCraw. “There are 29 places you can cross into the U.S. legally, and our job is to ensure we hold that line and keep those the only places these people can cross.”
According to the release, after the press conference, two units of hundreds of trained service members departed for the border to El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley. The release said the same operation is planned Tuesday, with two more elements of hundreds of soldiers deploying to the Rio Grande Valley.