San Antonio Express-News
Dec. 19—The Texas National Guard said Monday it would send more than 400 troops and equipment to El Paso aboard four C-130J cargo planes as part of what it described as an “enhanced border security effort.”
Additional troops were scheduled to be in place by Monday afternoon in response to increased border crossings over the past week and the end of Title 42 — a federal policy that used the health code to quickly expel migrants arriving at the U.S.- Mexico border amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The end of Title 42 is expected to lead to a massive influx of illegal immigrants allowing criminals to further exploit gaps while federal authorities are inundated with migrant processing,” the Texas Guard said in a statement.
The policy was set to expire Wednesday, but Gov. Greg Abbott tweeted Monday afternoon that U.S. Supreme Court Judge John Roberts was leaving Title 42 in place temporarily at the request of several states.
Abbott’s Operation Lone Star had placed 6,128 guardsmen on the border as of November, with an additional 3,700 positioned elsewhere, making it the organization’s largest mission in decades. The state also has assigned 1,600 Department of Public Safety troopers to the border.
There is no fixed date for the guard’s withdrawal.
The Texas Guard has around 20,600 soldiers and airmen in uniform.
Until last year, when Operation Lone Star began, the Texas Guard’s border missions had a relatively small footprint. Then-Gov. Rick Perry ordered one mission in 2014, dispatching 1,000 troops to be “the tip of the spear in protecting Americans from these cartels and gangs.”
While Abbott has, like Perry, repeatedly invoked troubles along the border in highly partisan rhetoric aimed directly at Democratic presidents, the latest operation has been costly and drawn widespread criticism.
So far, hundreds of millions of dollars in state funding have been spent on maintaining the heavy troop presence on the border. It also has resulted in morale problems among troops, including some suicides, as they suffered through a variety of problems ranging from pay shortages to hardships tied to their service.
In its statement Monday, the guard said a “security response force” composed of elements of the 606th Military Police Battalion would mobilize and the troops were “trained in civil disturbance operations and mass migration response.”
It said a second response force from the 236th MP Company would be on “high alert, prepared to deploy if needed, to other areas of the border.”
The guard said its actions were “part of a larger strategy to use every available tool to fight back against the record-breaking level of illegal immigration and transnational criminal activity.”
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