Texas will send 1,000 more National Guard troops to help at border, governor says

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday that the state will send 1,000 additional National Guard troops to the U.S.-Mexico border to help U.S. Border Patrol agents with border security.

They will work at detention facilities and ports of entry in El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley — and be in addition to about 1,000 Texas troops already there.

“There is an escalating crisis at the border — a crisis Congress is refusing to fix,” Abbott said during a press conference with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and House Speaker Dennis Bonnen.

Friday’s news comes days after President Donald Trump announced that he plans to further crack down on immigration — and that millions of people illegally living in the country soon will be deported. Raids by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents could start Sunday morning in some major cities.

More than 11 million undocumented immigrants are estimated to be living in the country, according to the Migration Policy Institute.

Abbott said troops, who were being deployed Friday, will help at temporary holding facilities that the Department of Homeland Security will be establishing in the coming weeks.

His calculations show that more than 45,000 people from 52 different countries have been apprehended as they illegally came into Texas.

“This effort is focused on reducing the humanitarian crisis at our border, on increasing border protection and security for our communities and on expediting trade between the United States and Mexico,” he said. “Importantly, the federal government will pay 100% of the costs of this short-term mission.”

Texas Democrats stressed the decision as “reckless,” and urged for other solutions.

“Deploying new troops to the border solves nothing. Let’s remember the real tragedy at the border,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “Children are getting separated from their parents. Children are getting locked in cages. Children are dying in the hands of government custody.

“We need comprehensive immigration reform, and we need to engage Central American countries and provide solutions that root out violence and extreme poverty that cause refugees to seek out Texas.”

Reports of neglect have come out of detention facilities in Texas. Abbott pinned any mistreatment of children crossing the border on the federal government.

“Congress is an accomplice to any harm they suffer,” Abbott said.

Earlier this year, Abbott called for $100 million to be pulled from the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund and added to the state budget to fund the push. The allocation was removed in the waning days of the legislative session that wrapped up Memorial Day.

He and others pointed to the inability of Congress to pass immigration reform as for why leaders had to send more troops to the border.

“My message to them is Congress is a group of reprobates for not addressing the crisis at our border,” Abbott said. “We’re not going to stand idly by and endanger the lives and safety of the state of Texas because Congress is refusing to do its job.”

Abbott’s move of sending more troops to the border is similar to one by former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who in 2014 also sent National Guard troops to the border to help law enforcers.

“It is time for Congress to quit talking, to quit arguing, ... to quit denying this is a crisis,” Patrick said. “We have an unprecedented number of people coming in to Texas.”

Immigration reform

This has been a week full of immigration news.

Communities across the country — including Tarrant County — have been grappling with whether to keep participating in a program known as 287(g) that lets sheriff’s deputies work as ICE agents.

Tarrant County commissioners on a 3-2 vote recently decided to stay in the program for another year.

“I know that fear exists ... for that, I am very, very sorry,” Tarrant County Judge Glen Whitley said before the vote. “I wish Congress would get off the dime and get (an immigration policy) taken care of.”

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Tessa Weinberg is a state government for the Star-Telegram. Based in Austin, she covers all things policy and politics with a focus on Tarrant County. She previously covered the Missouri legislature where her reporting prompted an investigation by the Attorney General’s office. A California native and graduate of the University of Missouri, she’s made her way across the U.S. and landed in Texas in May 2019.
Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.