Abbott announced the deployment of new Texas Tactical Border Force units to El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley on Monday and Tuesday.
TEXAS, USA – In his first public address since the Allen and Brownsville tragedies, Governor Greg Abbott announced on Monday that he is deploying 450 National Guard troops to the southern border before the end of Title 42.
Speaking at a press conference on the runway at Austin Bergstrom International Airport Monday morning, the Republican governor announced the deployment of a new unit called the Texas Tactical Border Force to El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley on Monday and Tuesday. That puts the troops in position before the federal government is expected to end Title 42 later this week.
“The cartels are working in partnership with the president [Joe] Biden and the federal government to facilitate that illegal cross-border,” Abbott said. “We are overrun by our own federal government. Texas has been undermined by our own federal government in our efforts to secure our border.”
His comments came two days after a man with an AR-15 opened fire at an Allen mall, killing eight people and wounding at least seven others. Less than 24 hours later, eight people died at a bus stop outside a migrant shelter when a man drove his car onto the sidewalk. Police investigating the crash did not say whether the crash was accidental or intentional.
Abbott visited Allen for a vigil on Sunday but did not speak publicly. She gave an interview to Fox News early Sunday in which she downplayed the role of Texas free-arms laws in the shooting and called for mental health services.
On Monday, his main focus was overturning Title 42, a pandemic-era health policy that allows the federal government to deport migrants as soon as they cross the border. The measure has been in effect since March 2020. Since then, immigration officials have invoked the policy 2.7 million times to quickly deport migrants from the United States without allowing them to claim asylum. But Title 42 is expected to conclude on Thursday when the Biden administration ends the federal COVID-19 public health emergency.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security expects illegal crossings to reach 10,000 per day when Title 42 ends. The Biden administration last week ordered an additional 1,500 servicemen to the border to prepare for the surge.
Abbott blames Biden’s high number of migrant crossings for reversing Trump-era policies and releasing migrants into the community as they await immigration hearings.
The governor’s office says the Biden administration has not coordinated with it on the additional federal deployment. But Abbott says those forces are only there for “documents.”
If Texas acted independently, the state would have secured the border, but Biden rolled out “the welcome mat,” he added.
Abbott plans to use the new border force to close “hot spots” to stop illegal immigration into Texas, like the one he said the National Guard closed near Brownsville a few days ago. Previous deployments, which Abbott has framed as a precursor to the new tactical unit, have erected border barriers to prevent migrants from entering El Paso and closed off border crossing hotspots.
The tactical force will be equipped with planes, boats, night vision goggles and riot gear to help stem border crossings.
On Monday, the state will send the first two segments of the unit to El Paso and another segment to the Rio Grande Valley. Two more segments, totaling more than 200 people, will travel to the Rio Grande Valley on Tuesday.
As Abbott spoke at the news conference, National Guard soldiers carrying loaded rifles on C-130 military transport planes cross behind him as they march. After the press conference ended, Abbott stood on the runway watching the planes take off. He shook hands with some National Guard soldiers in formation as he arrived on the runway.
Following the announcement, Abbott was asked about the shooting of Allen and the deaths of migrants in Brownsville.
Abbott was in Allen Sunday to visit the families of those affected by the shooting, as well as law enforcement, investigators and the wider community. However, investigators were unable to provide details at the time. The gunman, who died in the shooting, was a man in his 30s and may have held white supremacist or neo-Nazi beliefs, according to reports.
“The first step in bringing about some kind of resolution here, beyond providing insight into the response needed from the state of Texas, is knowing exactly why and how it happened,” Abbott told reporters Monday, noting that he believes the public will learn more in the coming days. “This will inform us as leaders of Texas about the next steps we can take to try and prevent crimes like this from happening in the future.”
He also said he spoke to the Brownsville police chief and the Cameron County judge Sunday evening, who are expecting more information on Monday. Officials are investigating whether the crash was intentional.
Abbott also touted the legislation making its way through the Legislature, which ends its legislative session this month. A priority bill he identified would make it illegal to enter Texas from Mexico at the state level.
That legislation, Senate Bill 2424, would allow the state to arrest perpetrators and return them to Mexico. Repeated violent offenders could face life in prison.
This story comes from The Texas Tribune, a non-profit, non-partisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — on matters of law and order, politics, government, and the state.