(The Center Square) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday issued a disaster declaration in response to several hundred thousand immigrants illegally entering the U.S. through Texas since President Joe Biden’s border policies began in January.
The five-page order comes roughly two months after Abbott initiated Operation Lonestar on March 6, directing the Texas Department of Public Safety to protect Texans from increased crime being committed by immigrants.
Abbott’s order directs DPS to enforce all federal and state criminal laws, including criminal trespassing, smuggling and human trafficking. The legislature just passed a biennial budget, which allocates an additional $1 billion to fund DPS border security efforts.
Abbott’s order also directs the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to take all necessary steps to discontinue state licensure of any childcare facility under a contract with the federal government that shelters or detains unlawful immigrants.
Additionally, 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 in order 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 procedures for licensing and transfers, and to address any staffing issues that may arise in expanding capacity.
“President Biden’s open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities,” Abbott said Tuesday.
“Meanwhile, landowners along the border are seeing their property damaged and vandalized on a daily basis while the Biden Administration does nothing to protect them,” he added. “Texas continues to step up to confront the border crisis in the federal government’s absence, but more must be done. By declaring a state of disaster in these counties, Texas will have more resources and strategies at our disposal to protect landowners and enforce all federal and state laws to combat criminal activities stemming from the border crisis. Working together with local law enforcement, the state will continue to take robust and meaningful action to keep our communities safe.”
Since 2014, Texas has spent $3.5 billion to help secure the southern border.
This year alone, Abbott has deployed 1,000 Texas State Troopers and hundreds of members of the Texas National Guard along the border.
Since Operation Lonestar began, DPS has made more than 1,300 criminal arrests, apprehended over 35,000 illegal immigrants, and seized more than 10,000 pounds of drugs and over 100 illegal firearms.
“Under the Biden administration, the federal government has shown unwillingness, ambivalence, or inability to enforce federal immigration laws, to deter and stop illegal border crossings into the United States or to meaningfully partner with Texas in pursuing these goals,” the order states.
Attorney General Ken Paxton, who has already sued the Biden administration more than any other state, filed several lawsuits over immigration.
Abbott’s calls for the federal government “to do its job and secure the border have gone unanswered,” the order states. 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,” the order states, adding that it is also causing a humanitarian crisis, escalating violence among the cartels, increasing the risk of human trafficking and has created a severe illegal drug crisis, including 21.5 million lethal doses of fentanyl intercepted by DPS alone in three months.
The governor’s declaration allows Texas to request federal funding for costs related to the disaster. It states that the “ongoing surge of individuals unlawfully 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, in 34 counties.
Previous to Abbott’s declaration, 15 counties had already issued their own local disaster declarations, requesting aid from the state.