McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Five Republican Texas leaders on Friday approved the transfer of $495.3 million in state funds for Operation Lone Star and other border security operations, which spurred an angry response from Texas Democrats.
The state has so far set aside $4 billion for border security efforts, which include 10,000 Texas National Guard troops that have been surged to the Texas-Mexico border as part of Operation Lone Star, according to Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The bulk of the funds — $463.5 million — will go to support Texas National Guard troops and $30 million to support state agencies that support border security, according to a letter sent Friday to several state leaders.
The funds were authorized in the letter sent by Abbott; Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick; Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan; Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Joan Huffman and House Appropriations Committee Chair Greg Bonnen.
Funds also will go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice; Health and Human Services Commission; Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission; Department of Public Safety; Department of State Health Services, and Texas Juvenile Justice Department, according to the letter.
Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa reacted angrily to the nearly half-a-billion dollars in transferred funds, according to a statement posted on social media.
“Abbott continues to play political theater along the southern border and endanger the livelihoods of servicemen and servicewomen. His actions are not only reckless, but they’re also nearly criminal. At this point he has spent nearly three billion dollars of taxpayer money to sustain his antics while everyday Texans continue to struggle-he has turned his back on his constituents and become beholden to big oil and corruption,” Hinojosa said in a statement.
The transfer of such vast quantities of Texas taxpayer funds is allowable under what’s called a Disaster-Related Transfer Authority, under the Texas Government Code, due to the governor’s border disaster declaration proclamation he issued last June.
The disaster proclamation stated “the surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexico border poses an ongoing and immediate threat.” The Disaster Related Transfer Authority was approved by the Texas Legislature, when they were still in session, under House Bill No. 1, General Appropriations Act.
On April 22, Abbott extended the disaster declaration, which applies to the following counties: Bee, Brewster, Brooks, Chambers, Colorado, Crane, Crockett, Culberson, DeWitt, Dimmit, Duval, Edwards, Frio, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Hudspeth, Jackson, Jeff Davis, Jim Hogg, Jim Wells, Kenedy, Kimble, Kinney, Kleberg, La Salle, Lavaca, Live Oak, Mason, Maverick, McCulloch, McMullen, Medina, Menard, Midland, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Refugio, San Patricio, Schleicher, Sutton, Terrell, Throckmorton, Uvalde, Val Verde, Victoria, Webb, Wharton, Wilbarger, Wilson, Zapata, and Zavala
“Texas will not sit on the sidelines as President Biden continues turning a blind eye to the crisis at our southern border,” Abbott said Friday in a statement. “Texans’ safety and security is our top priority, and we will continue fighting to keep our communities safe. This additional funding ensures the Lone Star State is fully equipped to provide Texans the border security strategy they demand and deserve.”
“As the border crisis continues and the Biden Administration considers repealing Title 42, millions of people are entering our country,” Patrick said. “Their failure to secure the southern border means that Texas must use our tax dollars to step into the breach.”
The funding was immediate Friday, as it was expected.
During an April 5 hearing of the Texas Senate Committee on Border Security, Texas lawmakers were told that funding for Operation Lone Star would run out in May.
Border Report has learned that at its current spending rate, additional funds of half a billion dollars will be required about every three months to sustain the current operation.
Operation Lone Star has been widely criticized and there have been several suicides and deaths by Texas National Guard troops assigned to the border mission. The most recent death was Friday in Eagle Pass, Texas, after a 22-year-old National Guardsman jumped into the Rio Grande to help two migrants, according to the Texas Military Department. His body was found Monday.
During a hearing Wednesday held by the Texas House Committee on Homeland Security and Public Safety, Texas National Guard Staff Sgt. Kiersten Faith of Tomball, Texas, said “this mission has been a complete waste of time,” according to electronic comments she submitted.
Faith said she arrived in October and until mid-December “did absolutely nothing.”
“We had points where we literally sat 5 feet from the highway and could not do anything, we were just there to make ranch owners look good during elections. We are now doing that again except this time we are sitting at a rest stop where we cannot do anything at all. The points we work at see little to no traffic so Texas is literally wasting money having all of us sitting down here,” Faith wrote.
Said Hinojosa: Abbot has “wasted billions of our taxpayer dollars funding his failed operation instead of utilizing it appropriately to expand Medicaid, raise teacher salaries, improve our roads, and ensure Texans had what they needed to survive.”