Gov. Greg Abbott redirects $500 million from other agencies to fund border security mission through end of fiscal year

Department of Public Safety agents arrest an undocumented migrant for trespassing on private property in Kinney County as part of Operation Lone Star. (Verónica G. Cárdenas For The Texas Tribune/Propublica, Verónica G. Cárdenas For The Texas Tribune/Propublica)

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Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday he is moving another $500 million to fund Operation Lone Star, his border security initiative at the Texas-Mexico border. The move comes three weeks after state military officials said the multibillion-dollar operation was in need of an infusion of cash to keep it afloat through the end of the fiscal year.

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Abbott said the money would be taken from the budgets of other Texas agencies, including nearly $210 million from the state’s Health and Human Services Commission over two years and about $160 million from the Texas Department of Public Safety. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Department of State Health Services and Juvenile Justice Department will each see tens of millions of dollars taken from their budgets to fund the border mission, Abbott said.

In a letter to the agencies, Abbott said that “this transfer will not affect any agency or program function.” The governor's office did not answer whether the agencies would be reimbursed later or would see budget cuts, and instead referred questions back to Abbott's original announcement.

Operation Lone Star’s price tag for taxpayers is upwards of $2 billion a year. State officials already transferred another $480 million from other agencies in January to keep the operation running through the spring.

“Texas will not sit on the sidelines as President Biden continues turning a blind eye to the crisis at our southern border,” Abbott said in his statement. “Texans’ safety and security is our top priority, and we will continue fighting to keep our communities safe. This additional funding ensures the Lone Star State is fully equipped to provide Texans the border security strategy they demand and deserve.”

Abbott’s Operation Lone Star is a series of policy changes at the border that the governor says is in response to an increase of illegal border crossings under the Biden administration. The project includes the deployment of thousands of state troopers and National Guard soldiers at the border, as well as Abbott’s state-funded border wall project.

The increase in funding comes as Abbott has implemented initiatives at the border such as boat blockades and razor wire at border crossings and chartered buses to Washington, D.C., for migrants in Texas. He says he is working to counter the Biden administration’s repeal of Title 42, a pandemic-era health order that allowed immigration officials to deny migrants entry to the U.S. because of the coronavirus.

The announcement also comes about one week after a Texas National Guard soldier drowned in Eagle Pass attempting to rescue migrants struggling to swim in the Rio Grande. Days later, it was revealed that the soldier was not properly equipped with a flotation device, The Texas Tribune reported Wednesday. Abbott said $465.3 million of the $500 million will be allocated to the Texas National Guard.

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