Running Tab: With $4 Billion Already Spent, Abbott’s Operation Lone Star Gets Another $359 Million

Gov. Greg Abbott gets his border crackdown bankrolled again.
Gov. Greg Abbott gets his border crackdown bankrolled again. "Caricature: Texas Governor Greg Abbott" by DonkeyHotey is marked with CC BY-SA 2.0.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, a widely criticized state-led clampdown on migrants crossing the border, will enjoy another $359.6 million in funds, the governor announced Thursday.

It’s another large sum for an operation that’s already run up a tab of more than $4 billion despite what critics have called questionable results.

The funds include $339 million for the Texas Military Department to continue its part in Operation Lone Star, as well as another $20.6 million to “support other state agencies” in their role in the border crackdown, the governor's office said in a press release Thursday.

The latest cash injection comes as part of $874.6 million that’s being moved as an “emergency” transfer. The Texas Tribune reported Thursday that the border funding will be siphoned from the state’s prison budget and will bankroll Operation Lone Star for 10 more months.

The whole transfer, requested by the Texas Legislative Budget Board and signed off on by Abbott, also includes safety updates for public schools, funding for the state’s COVID-19 response and $15 million for a new elementary school in Uvalde. (In late May, a gunman shot and killed 19 students and two teachers at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde.)

“The State of Texas is working around the clock to support critical public safety efforts, including protecting communities across the state from the increasing threats pouring across our southern border, as well as enhancing the security of Texas schools,” Abbott said in the news release announcing the funds.

State Senate Finance Committee Chair Joan Huffman said in the release that “it is critical that the legislature continues to fund Operation Lone Star as the flow of illegal immigrants, weapons and drugs has hit unprecedented levels.”

Well-funded or not, Operation Lone Star has prompted controversy time and again since the governor announced it in March 2021.

The operation has seen thousands of Texas National Guard troops and Department of Public Safety officers shipped to the southern frontier. The governor has also championed the construction of a wall on the state’s border with Mexico, although less than two miles of the barrier had been completed as of last month.

Meanwhile, the operation has also involved the governor overseeing the busing of thousands of migrants to sanctuary cities including Chicago, Washington, D.C., and New York, a move that rights groups have blasted as a political stunt.

In the past, the governor has defended Operation Lone Star and the busing against criticism, saying border communities "needed relief, and busing was one of the ways that provided them relief."

Gubernatorial challenger Beto O’Rourke, who will face off against Abbott in next month's election, has called the border crackdown a dangerous political “stunt.”

During a debate between Abbott and O’Rourke in late September, the Democratic hopeful criticized Abbott over its costs and decried the fact that at least eight National Guard troops had died throughout Operation Lone Star.

“Ten thousand Guard members, $4 billion and it's been a complete failure," O’Rourke said.
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Patrick Strickland is the former news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's worked as a senior reporter at Al Jazeera English. His reporting has appeared in the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.

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