AUSTIN (KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety launched Operation Lone Star on Saturday to focus on smuggling at the southern border of Texas, according to a release from the governor’s office.
Operation Lone Star will send law enforcement personnel and resources to “high threat areas” of the border “to deny Mexican Cartels and other smugglers the ability to move drugs and people into Texas,” the release says.
The decision comes after a February meeting with Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Colonel Steve McCraw about security at the border and what a release said were COVID-19 health concerns. According to the Feb. 9 release, Abbott and McCraw discussed “a recent surge of immigrants at Texas’ southern border and noted that this influx is related to the Biden Administration’s reinstatement of the ‘catch and release’ policy.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told McAllen’s mayor last month that family units — undocumented migrants traveling with children who cross into South Texas — were now being paroled into the United States as they awaited their asylum proceedings. This is what occurred during previous border security apprehensions known as “catch and release,” when migrants were allowed to remain in the United States during their immigration proceedings however many years that may take.
“The crisis at our southern border continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration,” Abbott said in a statement. “Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans.”
The newly launched operation will include Texas DPS with the Texas National Guard and will deploy air, ground, marine and tactical border security assets, the release says.
Gov. Abbott’s statement also comes days after a back-and-forth with President Biden about coronavirus restrictions and the Texas border.
“The Biden administration must stop importing COVID into our country,” Abbott told CNBC on Thursday, a day after he announced that a statewide mask mandate and business capacity restrictions will end next week. “That is a Neanderthal-type approach to dealing with the COVID situation.”
The day before, Biden called Abbott’s peel back of COVID-19 restrictions in the state “Neanderthal thinking.”
According to Border Report’s Sandra Sanchez, 108 migrants released in Brownsville during the past month were carrying the coronavirus, U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, said Wednesday. He said that is putting the South Texas border community, the volunteers who help them and the border agents, at risk.
For more, read reporter John Engel’s report about asylum seekers entering Texas through Mexico.