Many Texas counties, whether they are on the border or hundreds of miles away from it, are declaring support for Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security plans. 

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Greg Abbott's new border security plan, Operation Lone Star, is gaining massive support

  • More than 400 troops were sent to El Paso, after the mayor declared a disaster declaration

  • Several counties in Texas are now declaring a disaster declaration and are awaiting funding to help their counties' law enforcement 

  • Juan Sepúlveda, a political science professor, says most migrants are looking for work or trying to escape horrible situations at home

The Texas National Guard sent more than 400 troops to El Paso on Tuesday as thousands of migrants flood into the city. The El Paso mayor recently issued a disaster declaration. Those who have crossed the border now face harsh conditions. Some rest on the street, wrapped in blankets as temperatures drop.

The effects of this migration can be felt an eight-hour drive away in Clay County. Mike Campbell, the county judge there, said several of its Department of Public Safety (DPS) officers have been reassigned to border communities to help.

“DPS troopers are assigned to each county. I believe we have seven or eight here, but on any given week, half of them have been reassigned down to the border,” he said. “So it’s a burden on them. Many of them live in Clay County. It’s a burden to their families... But also, it takes troopers away from our major highways: 287, U.S. 82. It causes our local deputies to have to take up the slack on that. And while they’re certainly willing and able, we would prefer them to be taking care of the more rural areas, whereas the DPS handles our major highways.”

Clay County adopted a resolution calling for additional measures to “secure the invasion at the border.” Campbell said the purpose was to bring awareness to the problem. He said he wishes Texas’ tax dollars could be spent differently. Gov. Greg Abbott has spent $4 billion on his border initiative, Operation Lone Star (OLS).

“I think about all the things that we could use use that money for instead of what they’re using it for right now,” Campbell said. “But the governor needs to understand that we back him on that, and we get it. We understand that it’s a problem. And that while we wish the federal government would take care of it, they’re not doing it right now.”

Collin County, also in North Texas, approved a resolution to “recognize an invasion against the state of Texas.”

“We just want the governor to know that we’re behind him and whatever he needs to do in the absence of actual real action from the federal government,” said Darrell Hale, a commissioner in Collin County.

Juan Sepúlveda, a political science professor at Trinity University, described these resolutions as “symbolic.”

“In politics, you’re trying to create a narrative; you’re trying to create a story. And it can help sometimes if you use language that kind of sounds like it’s legal or sounds like it’s policy-oriented, when it’s kind of combined with politics,” he said. “So when you have counties that are eight, nine hours away from the border... 500-600 miles away, we know that on the ground, there is not an invasion taking place in those counties. But for them, it’s a chance to kind of show support for what they believe is a really important issue about immigration. It’s a chance for them to kind of get behind Gov. Abbott and support his political take on the view. But it is not a legal piece, right? It’s not something that’s kind of there, that has anything to do with triggering anything from the Constitution, whether it’s at the state level [or] at the federal level. But it’s an attempt almost to give more legitimacy to it by using that kind of language.”

Forty counties have either declared an invasion at the U.S.-Mexico border, or have expressed support for declaring an invasion, according to The Center Square. Both officials from Collin and Clay cunties have concerns about crime and drug and human trafficking.

Counties that have actually declared an invasion are eligible for OLS funding. Gov. Abbott started a grant program.

“You can potentially get money to help you in terms of law enforcement folks who have been taken away from your county — who have been deployed to go help the Border Patrol,” Sepúlveda said. 

“I think the best argument that they could make would be that when people come across the border, they don’t stay at the border. They come into this state and really go beyond the state to the rest of the country. And so there are people in the country illegally passing through every county in Texas and onto other states. And so you do have law enforcement initiatives. Sometimes you’ve got educational expenses if people do stay in those communities. And you have some social policy implications as well,” said Cal Jillson, a political science professor at Southern Methodist University. “So I think there’s an argument to be made that counties are impacted, but that doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to call this an ‘invasion’ and think in military terms about how you might stop people coming across the border.”

Sepúlveda said most migrants are looking for work or trying to escape horrible situations at home.

“That is the majority of the people who are crossing. They are not drug dealers. They are not trafficking kids. They’re not part of some huge gang related kind of thing,” he said.

Jillson said there won’t be much progress in finding a solution to the border crisis unless Democrats and Republicans work together.

“We really do need both of our major political parties to come together and develop a policy and then legislate in regard to the border, rather than have Democrats be reluctant to talk to Republicans in terms of border control, and Republicans unwilling to talk to Democrats in terms of the legitimate asylum and other types of claims to come into the country,” he said. “We’ve got a very tight labor market in the United States. At this point, we need additional workers. And if we had two working political parties, we’d tried to sort this thing out, but right now, it’s mostly political rhetoric and blaming each other.”

Regardless of who is crossing the border and why, several Texas counties agree with the governor that the federal government needs to step up and help.

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