Louisiana troops to remain at Texas border until November


Louisiana National Guard troops will remain at the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas until November in an extended mission that state officials said would result in no new costs to taxpayers. 

Since March, the soldiers have aided Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star effort, which controversially relies on state troopers to enforce federal immigration law when migrants cross the Rio Grande and land in Eagle Pass, Texas. 

Though the mission was due to end in June, some Louisiana troops, namely engineers, will help at the border until November at Abbott’s request, Gov. Jeff Landry has said. 

“As the Biden administration repeatedly ignores the crisis on our southern border, the Louisiana National Guard continues to step up and assist our neighbors in Texas as they work to protect our citizens and secure our country’s border,” Landry said in a Monday statement. 

Landry and state lawmakers originally set aside $3 million to fund the Louisiana deployment. About $2.2 million of that was spent to transport troops and cover the costs of having them deployed in Eagle Pass from March to June. The remaining $800,000 will support the engineers, Landry said. 

Operation Lone Star, launched in March 2021 after border crossings began to soar under the Biden administration, has been controversial, with the Justice Department, the ACLU and others suing over Abbott’s attempt to enforce federal law and questions over conditions in Texas’ makeshift immigration jails. 

Abbott has deemed the operation a success, however. Landry has also cast Louisiana’s participation as a win, citing decreases in the number of border crossings in Eagle Pass since Louisiana troops arrived there in March. From February to May, the U.S. Border Patrol’s Del Rio sector logged a 28% decrease in migrant encounters, with just over 10,000 encounters in May. The Del Rio sector includes Eagle Pass. 

During a two-day visit to Eagle Pass in April, a reporter and photographer for The Advocate | The Times-Picayune saw no migrants trying to cross the Rio Grande in the area where Louisiana troops were stationed. 

In December, officials logged more than 71,000 crossings in Del Rio. 

The Biden administration, meanwhile, has said that increased Mexican enforcement helped trigger a dropoff in border crossings earlier this year. In June, Biden reduced asylum protections for migrants, and later claimed victory for the lowest number of daily crossings since just before his inauguration in January 2021. 

Beginning July 15, Louisiana National Guard engineers will help Texas erect permanent fencing and barriers along the border, Lt. Col. Noel Collins, a National Guard spokesperson, said in a text. 

“Louisiana is proud to support this critical mission protecting our nation’s border,” added Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Director Jacques Thibodeaux in a joint statement with Landry. “Texas is one of our closest emergency management partners, and Gov. Landry has remained strong in his backing of this mission along the border.”