While the operation has produced thousands of criminal arrests and substantial seizures of narcotics, it comes far short of accomplishing Abbott’s statement that the state would “start arresting everybody coming across the border.”
In addition, the enforcement results of Operation Lone Star have done nothing to quiet the criticisms of Abbott’s Republican primary opponents, though the governor still boasts the endorsement of major conservative voices in Texas.
‘Everybody Coming Across the Border’
In a Fox News appearance in June, Abbott was asked why the State of Texas did not simply close the border and tell people crossing to “go back.”
Abbott is treading carefully around Arizona v. United States, a 2010 decision by the United States Supreme Court that nullified portions of an Arizona state law that sought to criminalize illegal immigration at the state level.
Instead, Abbott indicated that illegal aliens would be arrested for aggravated trespassing and could be incarcerated for up to a year.
“[T]he law that I’m going to use will be legal ways in which Texas is going to start arresting everybody coming across the border,” Abbott said.
The governor seemed to believe he had successfully thread the needle of ramping up enforcement against illegal crossings while avoiding running afoul of the Supreme Court. He even went as far as saying there was a “new game in town in the State of Texas.”
The next week, he announced the beginning of the state’s border wall project. As of August 27, he had raised $18,981,026 via the crowdsourcing website his office set up to help fund the barrier.
This sum is less than eight percent of the $250 million in state funds he shuffled to help pay for it, and pales in comparison to the additional $1 billion in border security funding the Texas legislature might soon disburse directly to the governor’s office.
In a press release on Wednesday, the Office of the Governor reported the following results for Operation Lone Star.
- DPS has arrested 4,600 people for “charges including criminal mischief and criminal trespass.”
- Operation Lone Star has seized over 700 pounds of cocaine, 127 pounds of fentanyl, 8,700 pounds of cannabis, and 270 firearms.
- Abbott wrote on social media that $3.8 million in currency had also been confiscated as well as more than 1,400 pounds of methamphetamine.
According to information provided by United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) on August 4, there were at least 146,302 illegal crossings in Texas border patrol sectors in July only.
In the El Paso, Big Bend, Del Rio, Laredo, and Rio Grande Valley sectors, there were a total of 627,065 enforcement encounters with illegal aliens in March, April, May, June, and July. The total number of Operation Lone Star arrests for “charges including criminal mischief and criminal trespass” are less than one percent of CBP’s reported enforcement encounters for the approximate time period that the operation has been in place.
DPS Press Secretary Ericka Miller wrote in an email to The Texan on Thursday, “Since Operation Lone Star began in March, there have been more than 61,900 migrant apprehensions and referrals. All are referred to US Border Patrol or other federal authorities, or taken to jail on state charges.”
That number is approximately 10 percent of CBP’s total reported enforcement encounters from March through July.
In addition, the legal structure in Texas seems to be struggling with supporting even the relatively small number of criminal arrests of illegal immigrants. Defense attorneys from as far north as Lubbock are reportedly organizing to assist overwhelmed public defenders in South Texas counties.
Bringing the discussion back to the stated purpose of the operation “to combat the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas,” Abbott has certainly made progress — enough that the state legislature is considering $1 billion in more funding to support the project.
However, for many, the fact that so many foreign individuals are still getting across with limited consequences is unacceptable.
‘Completely Shut Down the Border’
While there is only so much a state can do to solve a problem that is outside its constitutional purview, Abbott has promoted himself as a governor who prioritizes border security, and the results of Operation Lone Star are wholly unimpressive to Abbott’s Republican primary opponents.
Former GOP Senator Don Huffines is running on the promise to “finish the wall, and completely shut down the border until illegal immigration stops.” Huffines has excoriated Abbott for his handling of the border crisis, contending that “he’s had the power for the last seven years to close down the Texas border, and has refused to do so.”
Conservative humorist and BlazeTV host Chad Prather wrote in July that “Greg Abbott has done nothing but sit idly by while our border is being overrun.”
Allen West, a retired Army Lieutenant Colonel and former Texas GOP chairman, produced a video earlier this month in which he said Abbott has “broken promises” on border security.
Noting that Abbott has been governor since 2015 and was attorney general for 12 years prior to that, West said, “Sir, you are aiding and abetting narco-criminal, terrorist organizations that we call the cartels.”
Despite the heated rhetoric against Abbott, former President Trump endorsed him almost three months after Operation Lone Star began and United States Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) also pledged to vote for Abbott last week.
Trump and Cruz have focused their criticisms on President Biden and Vice President Harris.
Update: The fundraising total for the state border wall project has been updated.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."