EAGLE PASS, Texas — On Wednesday, a Texas Department of Public Safety Highway Patrol helicopter scanned outbound trains as troopers assisted on the ground. A plume of dust created by the hovering aircraft evidenced the daily check for migrants leaving the city. The border security task, once exclusively performed by federal authorities, has become routine for state troopers under Operation Lone Star.
As the Border Patrol is relegated to the enormous task of providing humanitarian care for thousands of migrant detainees in custody, their involvements in actual patrols are significantly reduced.
Along state highways, back roads, and the banks of the Rio Grande, state troopers and Texas Army National Guard personnel are sometimes the only law enforcement officers visible.
In March 2021, Governor Greg Abbott announced Operation Lone Star would commence in response to an increase in migrant crossings, human smuggling, and narcotics trafficking. The operation involves the deployment of more than 1,000 state police and National Guardsmen to the immediate border area.
The operation continues in full swing nearly six months later. Despite the increased presence of the troopers and guardsmen, lax federal immigration policies have caused the flow to continue almost unabated.
As of Tuesday, Operation Lone Star netted 64,900 migrant referrals to federal officials. More than 5,000 criminal arrests have been made and more than 8,000 pounds of cocaine and methamphetamine were seized. Illicit currency to the tune of $14.7 million was found in relation to the crimes committed along the border. The number of firearms seized stands at 1,500. There were roughly 700 vehicle pursuits involving human smugglers.
The flow of migrants across the border has kept the operation running and prompted Abbott to dedicate state prison beds to house migrants arrested for criminal trespass. In August, Abbott granted arrest authorities to the Texas Army National Guard.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.