The Texas National Guard made national headlines this week when it seized a strip of land in one of the biggest illegal border crossing hotspots in the Lone Star State from federal border officials. However, what was initially hailed as a move to curb the record-breaking illegal immigration appears to be just another round of border theater by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott.
The Texas Military Department claimed that it took control of Shelby Park, a 2.5-mile long stretch along the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas, to “prepare for future illegal immigrant surges” and keep out federal border officials who “perpetuate illegal immigrant crossings in the park and greater Eagle Pass area.”
Eagle Pass is a high-traffic area for migrants to cross the U.S. border illegally and has been for years.
Abbott and the Border Patrol Union praised the Guard for taking the necessary steps ignored by the Biden administration to secure the U.S.-Mexico border. “As caravans of migrants are moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, we are making clear that Texas will be a tough place to cross,” Abbott bragged on X.
Yet despite the addition of personnel, barriers, gates, concertina wire, and “military Humvees” to the area, Abbott has not authorized the Texas National Guard to detain and deport illegal immigrants, who are still being turned over to Border Patrol for processing and, in most cases, release.
So, while the move prompted an outcry from the Biden administration and federal border officials who say the state’s interference prevents them from doing their jobs, Abbott’s move won’t fundamentally change the dynamic at the border.
The Department of Justice rushed to file a complaint against the state with the Supreme Court, which argues that Texas is illegally inhibiting Border Patrol’s access to the Rio Grande via boat ramps and one of the larger areas it uses to “evaluate and begin inspecting migrants that it has apprehended along this stretch of the border.”
Some have decried Abbott’s move as an effort to prevent Border Patrol from conducting operations in Eagle Pass. Robert Daley, the lead field coordinator for U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the Del Rio area, wrote in a declaration attached to the filings that “Texas does not want Border Patrol to be able to arrest, process, or transport migrants out of the identified area.”
Border Patrol sources told Fox News National Correspondent Griff Jenkins, however, that the National Guard’s attempt to prevent federal agents’ access to Shelby Park doesn’t stop illegal border crossers from coming into the U.S. Instead, the Shelby Park blockade simply elongates processing time for migrants who will go through the National Guard before they are ultimately handed over to Border Patrol.
“BP Sources say this tactic has had no impact on migrant flow and ultimately migrants are still turned over to BP adding extra steps,” Jenkins reported.
Abbott deployed the Texas National Guard to the Southern border in 2021 under the guise of securing the Southern border “as Biden does nothing.” Since Operation Lone Star’s expensive debut, however, illegal border crossings in Texas and across the southwest border have continued to rise to record-high levels.
In December 2023 alone, more than 300,000 migrants were arrested illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Overall, CBP reported more than 2.47 million illegal border crosser apprehensions in the 2023 fiscal year, a record. Last year’s “encounter” totals are up significantly from the 2.38 million arrests reported in 2022 and the 1.73 million in 2021.