Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration on Tuesday in response to hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants entering the United States through Texas since President Joe Biden’s border policies took effect in January.
The five-page order comes nearly two months after Abbott launched Operation Lonestar on March 6, instructing the Texas Department of Public Safety to protect Texans from increased crime committed by immigrants.
DPS is directed by Abbott’s order to enforce all federal and state criminal laws, including criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking. The legislature recently passed a biennial budget that includes an additional $1 billion for DPS border security efforts. Abbott’s order also directs the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to take all necessary steps to terminate state licensure of any childcare facility under a federal government contract that shelters or detains illegal immigrants.
Furthermore, Abbott directed the Texas Commission on Jail Standards and the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to work with Texas counties to provide appropriate guidance and request any necessary waivers to give counties the flexibility needed to establish adequate alternative detention facilities or otherwise add or expand capacity. He also directed these agencies to streamline licensing and transfer procedures, as well as address any staffing issues that may arise as capacity expands.
“President Biden’s open-border policies have allowed dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and lethal drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities,” Abbott said on Tuesday.
“Meanwhile, landowners along the border are having their property damaged and vandalized on a daily basis, and the Biden Administration is doing nothing to protect them,” he added. “Texas continues to step up to address the border crisis in the absence of the federal government, but more needs to be done. By declaring a state of disaster in these counties, Texas will have more resources and strategies to protect landowners and enforce all federal and state laws to combat criminal activity stemming from the border crisis. The state will continue to take robust and meaningful action to keep our communities safe in collaboration with local law enforcement.”
Texas has spent $3.5 billion to help secure the southern border since 2014. Abbott has deployed 1,000 Texas State Troopers and hundreds of Texas National Guard members along the border just this year.
DPS has made over 1,300 criminal arrests, apprehended over 35,000 illegal immigrants, and seized over 10,000 pounds of drugs and over 100 illegal firearms since the start of Operation Lonestar.
The order states that “under the Biden administration, the federal government has demonstrated an unwillingness, ambivalence, or inability to enforce federal immigration laws, deter and stop illegal border crossings into the United States, or to meaningfully partner with Texas in pursuing these goals.” Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has already sued the Biden administration more than any other state, filed several lawsuits over immigration.
The order states that Abbott’s calls for the federal government to “do its job and secure the border” have gone unanswered. It states that Biden’s inaction, “whether intentional, reckless, or negligent,” is causing a “dramatic increase in the number of individuals unlawfully crossing the international border into Texas,” as well as a humanitarian crisis, escalating violence among the cartels, increasing the risk of human trafficking, and creating a severe illegal drug crisis, including 21.5 million lethargic people.
The governor’s declaration allows Texas to seek federal assistance for disaster-related expenses. The “ongoing surge of individuals illegally crossing the Texas-Mexico border poses an ongoing and imminent threat of widespread and severe damage, injury, and loss of life and property,” as well as other threats, is stated in 34 counties.
Prior to Abbott’s declaration, 15 counties had issued their own local disaster declarations, requesting state assistance.