By Jack Phillips
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he’s deployed a special border force just ahead of this week’s expiration of the Title 42 public health order that turned back millions of illegal immigrants in recent years.
Abbott, a Republican who has been critical of President Joe Biden’s border policies, said that members of the newly minted Texas Tactical Border Force will be sent via Black Hawk helicopters to areas along the U.S.–Mexico border. The unit includes specially trained Texas National Guard members.
The border force, he said, will be sent to “hotspots all along the border to help intercept and repel large groups of migrants trying to enter Texas illegally” before criticizing the Biden administration for allowing Title 42 to end.
“The Texas Tactical Border Force will bolster our Operation Lone Star efforts to secure the Texas border amid the chaos caused by President Biden’s elimination of Title 42.”
A similar tactic was used in El Paso successfully last December, he said at a news conference on May 8. In the last couple of days, Abbott added, the National Guard identified and suppressed a surge in crossings at Brownsville, the same city where a driver plowed into a group of illegal immigrants—mostly from Venezuela—on May 7.
The elite National Guard team will focus on any such surges that occur, identifying crossing points and shutting them down, the Texas governor said. They will have access to aircraft, boats, night vision equipment, and riot gear, Abbott added.
Scheduled to end on May 11, Title 42 allows federal border agents to rapidly expel illegal immigrants to Mexico. It was first implemented in March 2020 at the start of the pandemic to stem the spread of COVID-19 in crowded detention settings.
Its repeal is expected to lead to a rise in border arrivals as a result of pent-up demand and the perception among illegal crossers—many of whom are from Mexico, Venezuela, and Central America—that they’ll be allowed into the United States. Since Biden took over, Republicans have been critical of what they called the administration’s lax policies around illegal immigration and enforcing federal laws.
“These additional forces will bolster the thousands of Texas National Guard service members already assisting local and state law enforcement agencies to secure the border; stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Texas; and prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal behavior between the ports of entry,” the Texas National Guard said in a statement on May 8.
“We have expanded our capabilities to include boat teams that patrol hundreds of river miles, drones and helicopters that detect illicit activity from the air, and brush teams, security points and roving patrols that block and interdict illegal smuggling (drugs, weapons and people) into Texas.”
At the news conference, Abbott said he would continue to bus illegal immigrants from the border to cities such as Chicago and New York. But in a turn of events, officials in New York City announced last week they would send hundreds of illegal immigrants to a small city in suburban Rockland County, drawing pushback from local officials, who declared a state of emergency.
Abbott said he was working with state lawmakers to make it a felony to illegally enter Texas from Mexico or to be involved in so-called stash houses for migrants who have crossed the border illegally. Another measure would impose a 10-year minimum jail sentence for anyone convicted of smuggling people into Texas.
The Epoch Times has contacted Abbott’s office for further comment on what powers the Texas Tactical Border Force will have in repelling illegal migrants. The federal government is the sole entity that enforces U.S. border and immigration law, while states have little latitude in doing so.
“The cartels know it’s the federal government that controls the immigration process. The cartels are working in collaboration with President Biden and the federal government to facilitate that illegals cross the border,” Abbott said, adding that his state is being “undermined” by the federal government.
Abbott’s remarks come as police identified 34-year-old George Alvarez as the driver who plowed into a group of people who were sitting near a shelter housing illegal immigrants and homeless people on May 17, killing eight and injuring 10, in Brownsville, located across the border from Matamoros, Texas. Officials have released few details about the suspect but said he’s been uncooperative.
During a May 8 news conference, police displayed what appeared to be Alvarez’s rap sheet. In the past, Alvarez has been charged with counts of assault, aggravated assault, drug possession, vehicle burglary, driving while intoxicated, theft, resisting arrest, and more, according to a poster that officials displayed on May 8.
Authorities said they couldn’t verify claims from witnesses that Alvarez shouted insults against illegal immigrants and raised his middle finger before plowing into pedestrians. At the same time, authorities said they are awaiting a toxicology report to determine whether he was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash.
At the May 8 press conference, Abbott also made reference to the mass shooting in Allen, Texas, that left eight dead. Abbott said met with local officials to “get to the bottom of what’s going on.”
Reuters contributed to this report.