Florida Surging Law Enforcement Resources to Help Texas at Border

The best way to send thanks to the men and women of Operation Lone Star, who are providing what security there is along the Rio Grande

By Andrew R. Arthur on May 18, 2023

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) announced this week that his state would be sending a massive contingent of troopers, other law enforcement officers, and air and marine assets to the Southwest border to assist Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and National Guard troops in their efforts to secure the Southwest border. That’s the federal government’s job, but the Biden administration’s feckless immigration policies have overwhelmed Border Patrol agents to such a degree that they are largely dependent on the state support. We should all be grateful Texas is filling the void.

Florida’s First Border Go-Round. This is the second time that DeSantis has rushed Sunshine State assets to the border.

In June 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) and then-Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R) sent a letter asking their fellow governors for border assistance, which Ducey tweeted out at the time:

As that letter reveals, the request was made under the terms of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, which Congress ratified in October 1996 — not coincidentally just 16 days after it passed the sweeping immigration reforms in the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).

Directly after Abbott and Ducey sent that plea, DeSantis respondent by directing Florida Highway Patrol troopers, officers from the state’s Department of Law Enforcement and Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and deputies from 10 county sheriffs’ offices to Texas and Arizona to help out.

Processing center in El Paso
A processing center for illegal border-crossers in El Paso, Texas. Photo by Andrew Arthur.

While I was in Val Verde County, Texas, in August 2021, I was embedded in a Texas Highway Patrol vehicle with one of those Florida troopers. Let’s just say that the landscape was a little different from the south Florida post he had been assigned to, but he was adapting.

As I explained at the time, there was “little evidence of a border” there, with most Border Patrol agents off the line and assigned to transport, process, and care for migrants who had crossed the border into Del Rio, Texas, and turned themselves hoping (reasonably) for processing and release.

It was a marked difference from a trip that I had made to the area just four years earlier when agents were everywhere — on the roads and highways, in the river, and along the banks of the Rio Grande.

In response, Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021, sending DPS and National Guard troops to south Texas to provide security. As he explained in a press release announcing the operation: “The crisis at our southern border continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies that refuse to secure the border and invite illegal immigration.” How right he was.

As Judge T. Kent Wetherell II explained in his March 8 opinion in Florida v. U.S., the president’s migrant release policies had produced “a flashing ‘Come In, We’re Open’ sign on the” Southwest border for would-be migrants, and more importantly, their smugglers.

If not for the Texas troopers and their out-of-state colleagues in August 2021, there would have been little or no border security at all on the U.S.-Mexican line.

While significant, DeSantis’ 2021 contribution was modest: Florida then sent about 100 law-enforcement officials to the border then, according to Axios, as well as boats and aircraft.

Round Two in the Nick of Time. That pales in comparison to the Florida governor’s latest resource commitment of:

101 Florida Highway Patrol Troopers; 200 Florida Department of Law Enforcement Officers, in teams of 40; 20 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers; 800 Florida National Guard Soldiers; 20 Emergency Management Personnel – including radio technicians, logisticians, mechanics and planners; five available fixed wing aircraft with monitoring equipment and downlink capabilities with two aviation crew teams; two Mobile Command Vehicles and two command teams; 17 available unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) and support teams; [and] 10 vessels – including airboats, shallow draft vessels, and mid-range vessels.

That’s more troops than Leonidas brought when he confronted Xerxes, but then Texas’ southern border is a good bit wider than Thermopylae was.

Texas is in desperate need of those Florida resources. Abbott rushed additional troopers and National Guard soldiers to the Southwest border in the past weeks in advance of the end of Title 42, and deployed a new Texas Tactical Border Force on May 8.

When I was in El Paso last week, the results were evident: black-and-white Texas Highway Patrol trucks and olive drab National Guard vehicles were spaced out along the river in front of the border fence behind lines of concertina wire in each direction.

Nobody on the other side of the river seemed interested in challenging them, except at the far southeastern environs of the city near Border Patrol’s “Gate 42”. There, Border Patrol agents were loading hundreds of migrants into buses, ostensibly for processing at CBP’s sprawling (and yet somehow still growing) nearby “processing center”.

And that was nothing compared to the images of the “Texican standoff” my colleague Todd Bensman broadcast from the eastern end of the Southwest border in Brownsville, Texas, last week, where state officers were actively staring down would-be illegal migrants.

Those DPS officers and troops may be dogged, but they are also getting exhausted. Two-plus years of deployments hundreds of miles and hours away from home (Texas is a huge state), are bound to take a heavy toll, and morale is taking a hit.

Bensman and I concur that to the degree that there’s any security along the Rio Grande, it is the state of Texas — not the federal government — that is providing it. Given that, DeSantis’ contribution could not have been better timed.

Conversely, all Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the Texas Highway Patrol and National Guard — especially northern big-city mayors who have been kvetching for months about their “migrant crises”, all of which pale in comparison to what Brownsville, Del Rio, El Paso, and hundreds of other border towns and cities are experiencing.

If the president or DHS secretary cared, they would find some way to express their gratitude to the state of Texas and the men and women staffing Operational Lone Star for the security they are providing. I’m not sitting on my hands waiting, but in the interim Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is showing his appreciation the best way possible — by sending them more help.