Texas Guard’s Operation Lone Star to continue beyond 2024 election

by Tommy Grant

The Texas National Guard will continue its state-controlled mission to patrol the Texas-Mexico border through at least the end of 2024, according to a planning document obtained by Army Times.

The mission, known as Operation Lone Star, consists of thousands of Texas Guard members and state law enforcement officers. Texas officials say the troops and troopers aim to stem the flow of undocumented migrants and both drug and human smuggling along the state’s 1,200-mile-long border with Mexico.

The internal document indicated that the mission is authorized to continue with its current manning levels and equipment through Dec. 31, 2024. The Texas Military Department did not provide a statement before this article’s publication deadline.

Although Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders claim success, citing questionable arrest and drug seizure statistics, Operation Lone Star has cost the state billions of dollars. The mission’s supporters claim such expenditure is necessary due to what they perceive as inaction from the Biden administration.

Other Republican-led states have contributed small numbers of Guardsmen to the mission for short, highly publicized stints, and former president Donald Trump held a campaign event last month in Edinburg, Texas, after serving Thanksgiving meals to Lone Star troops with Abbott.

When Texas officials dramatically expanded Operation Lone Star by thousands of Guardsmen in the fall of 2021, they largely did so through involuntary mobilizations. Once at the border, troops found difficult living conditions, pay problems and other hardships detailed in a series of investigative reports by Military Times and The Texas Tribune. After a series of high-profile firings, including the early retirement of the Texas National Guard’s top general, those problems have slowly improved.

Other problems have persisted, exacerbated by the sometimes unclear lines between the Guard’s federal and state operating authorities. At least four intelligence officers have received internal administrative discipline for their alleged violations of rules barring state-run spy operations, a Military Times and Texas Tribune investigation found.

Operation Lone Star has also led to numerous legal battles. A number of arrests (on trespassing charges authorized by agreements between the state and private landowners) have led to civil rights lawsuits. The Department of Justice successfully sued the state over a floating barrier it deployed in the Rio Grande, and the 5th Circuit is deliberating whether federal Border Patrol agents can remove razor wire placed by state-controlled National Guard troops.

Davis Winkie covers the Army for Military Times. He studied history at Vanderbilt and UNC-Chapel Hill, and served five years in the Army Guard. His investigations earned the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2023 Sunshine Award and consecutive Military Reporters and Editors honors, among others. Davis was also a 2022 Livingston Awards finalist.

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