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Governor Greg Abbott said Friday he was moving an additional $500 million to fund Operation Lone Star, his border security initiative on the Texas-Mexico border. The move comes three weeks after state military officials said the multibillion-dollar operation needed a cash injection to keep it afloat through the end of the fiscal year.
Abbott said the money would come from the budgets of other Texas agencies, including nearly $210 million from the state Health and Human Services Commission over two years and about $160 million from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Department of State Health Services and Department of Juvenile Justice will each see tens of millions of dollars taken from their budgets to fund the border mission, Abbott said.
In a letter to agencies, Abbott said “this transfer will not affect any agency or program functions.” The governor’s office did not answer whether the agencies would be reimbursed later or suffer budget cuts, and instead referred questions back to Abbott’s initial announcement.
The cost to taxpayers of Operation Lone Star is over $2 billion a year. State officials have already transferred an additional $480 million from other agencies in January for the operation to continue through the spring.
“Texas will not sit on the sidelines as President Biden continues to turn a blind eye to the crisis on our southern border,” Abbott said in his statement. “The safety and security of Texans is our top priority, and we will continue to fight to keep our communities safe. This additional funding ensures that the Lone Star State is fully equipped to provide Texans with the border security strategy they demand and deserve.
Abbott’s Operation Lone Star is a series of border policy changes that the governor says are in response to an increase in illegal border crossings under the Biden administration. The project includes the deployment of thousands of state troopers and National Guard troops to the border, as well as Abbott’s state-funded border wall project.
The funding increase comes as Abbott has implemented border initiatives such as boat blockades and barbed wire at border crossings and charter buses in Washington, DC, for migrants in Texas. He says he is working to counter the Biden administration’s repeal of Title 42, a pandemic-era health order that allowed immigration officials to deny migrants entry to the United States because of the coronavirus.
The announcement also comes about a week after a Texas National Guard soldier drowned at Eagle Pass while trying to rescue migrants struggling to swim in the Rio Grande. Days later, it was revealed that the soldier was not properly fitted with a flotation device, the Texas Tribune reported Wednesday. Abbott said $465.3 million of the $500 million will be allocated to the Texas National Guard.
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