By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Gov. Greg Abbott is launching the Joint Border Security Operations Center to oversee a 15-agency effort to thwart illegal immigration funded by Texas taxpayers.
Texas shares the largest border with Mexico of 1,254 miles and is bearing the brunt of the surge illegal immigration. Last year, the state legislature allocated $4 billion for border security efforts, Abbott launched Operation Lone Star and Texas began building its own wall.
The command center will oversee these efforts on a larger agency-wide scale. It was launched on Friday in anticipation of a deluge of illegal immigrants expected to flood the southern border on Monday. The CDC has designated Monday as the day to lift Title 42, the public health authority that enables federal agents to quickly deport illegal immigrants.
However, also on Friday, a federal judge halted the administration’s plan, keeping Title 42 in place.
“Another federal court announced today what we have known all along: President Biden is ignoring federal law with his open border policies,” Gov. Abbott said after Friday’s ruling. “While today’s court ruling rejecting President Biden’s ending of Title 42 expulsions is a positive development, hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants remain at our southern border ready to flood into Texas.
“Texas will continue utilizing all available resources and strategies to prevent this mass illegal migration, including the deployment of Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas National Guard resources, the coordination with Mexican border governors, and the activation of the Joint Border Security Operations Center. We remain vigilant in fighting the lifting of Title 42 expulsions.”
Last month, the attorneys general of Arizona, Louisiana and Missouri sued, asking a federal court in Louisiana to halt the administration’s plan; days later more states joined as plaintiffs. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton also filed a separate lawsuit in federal court in Texas.
Of the court’s ruling, Mr. Paxton said, “Once again, the courts rule against Joe Biden’s lawless agenda. Title 42 is one of the last remaining protections we have from a deluge of illegals coming across our border. I am glad for our state and our nation that It will remain in place.”
JBSOC, based at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s headquarters in Austin, will coordinate the efforts of 15 agencies, led by the Texas Military Department, DPS and Texas Department of Emergency Management. It will provide 24-7 situational awareness by overseeing intelligence and tactical, marine, air, and ground operations, coordinating live feeds from Texas National Guard and DPS aircraft, UAVs, and detection cameras, and remaining in direct contact with law enforcement on the ground at the border.
“Texas will not stand by as President Biden puts our state and our nation in danger by … allowing dangerous criminals, illegal weapons, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to flow unabated into the United States, and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis at our southern border,” Gov. Abbott said.
Gov. Abbott also recently entered into agreements with four Mexican governors who pledged to work with Texas to combat illegal immigration, the first governor to do so in U.S. history.
Despite the historic agreements, more people are entering Texas illegally through these Mexican states. Shortly after the agreements were reached, one member of the Texas National Guard drowned attempting to save drug smugglers. His death, and the thousands of illegal immigrants pouring into Texas, suggest the agreements are more symbolic than they are effective, critics argue.
On Friday, Gov. Abbott said, “We continue taking unprecedented action to secure the border, ramping up every available strategy and resource in response to President Biden’s ongoing border crisis,” adding that JBSOC “will play an integral role in our state’s robust response to provide the border security strategy Texans – and Americans – deserve.”
But several strategies exist that he hasn’t yet taken, conservatives argue.
Conservatives have repeatedly called on Gov. Abbott to use his constitutional authority to protect Texas’ sovereignty and declare what’s happening at the border an invasion, to shut down ports of entry, and to take other military measures, which he hasn’t yet done. They’ve also called on Mr. Paxton to issue a legal opinion on the matter, which he hasn’t done. Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich is the only one to issue such an historic opinion.
Even with Title 42 in place, due to the Biden administration’s widespread reversal of immigration laws, more than 234,000 people were encountered entering the U.S. illegally, the greatest number in a single month in recorded U.S. history.
That’s a 1,376% increase from 17,106 encounters reported in April 2020 under the Trump administration.
Despite the record high numbers, CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus said when the April numbers were released, “The fact is that our borders are not open, and we will continue to remove those who enter our country unlawfully and have no legal basis to stay.”At a press conference in the Rio Grande Valley Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that ending Title 42 wouldn’t “mean the border is open on May 23,” KHOU 11 News Houston reported. “We continue to enforce the laws of this country,” he said. “We continue to remove individuals who do not qualify for relief under the laws of this country.”