Florida National Guard, law enforcement begin work with Texas Operation Lone Star
Fri, May 26, 2023 7:30 AM
By Bethany Blankley, The Center Square
Florida National Guard, state troopers, and other personnel are in “full force,” assisting with Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, at the Texas-Mexico border, Gov. Ron DeSantis says.
On May 16, Abbott requested aid from his fellow 49 governors to help secure its border. Within hours, DeSantis announced Florida’s pledge to help. Within a few more hours, 24 governors had pledged their support.
“Since taking office, President [Joe] Biden has willfully refused to enforce our nation’s immigration laws while systematically dismantling every effective border security policy that previously led to the lowest number of illegal border crossings in decades,” Abbott said. As a result, illegal activity “flows directly across the southern border into Texas communities, but this crisis does not stop in our state.
“In the federal government’s absence, we, as Governors, must band together to combat President Biden’s ongoing border crisis and ensure the safety and security that all Americans deserve.”
When announcing he was deploying Florida personnel and resources, DeSantis said, “Florida stands ready to help defend the southern border and is deploying assets to aid Texas’ border security crisis.
“The impacts of Biden’s Border Crisis are felt by communities across the nation, and the federal government’s abdication of duty undermines the sovereignty of our country and the rule of law. … While Biden ignores the crisis he created, Florida stands ready to help Texas respond to this crisis."
Less than 10 days later, DeSantis gave an update of Florida’s border security efforts in Texas.
Florida National Guard members are currently supporting Texas Military Department efforts by manning static observation points, participating in roving patrols, and providing engineer assistance with obstacle improvement. So far, 436 guard personnel have completed initial orientation and are on-scene completing mission sets with Texas National Guard counterparts.
So far, 40 Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents and eight support team members have already been deployed along the Texas-Mexico border. On May 19, Florida agents were sworn in, allowing them to enforce Texas laws, the governor’s office said.
The FDLE is assisting Texas law enforcement agencies by investigating cartel-driven criminal activity along the border, including human, drug and weapon smuggling and trafficking. FDLE agents have already assisted Texas DPS with 32 arrests, including several gang members. They also arrested people for alleged crimes committed related to firearms, smuggling of persons, and possession of controlled substances. They also helped seize cocaine, methamphetamine, marijuana, drug paraphernalia, a well as a handgun with multiple boxes of ammunition, the governor’s office said.
Personnel from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and Florida Highway Patrol are also in Texas. So far, 101 FHP troopers are deployed to support OLS, as well as two fixed-wing aircraft, including one with monitoring equipment and downlink capabilities, to help with patrolling the border.
Two mobile command vehicles are also stationed in Weslaco, in the Rio Grande Valley, and in Del Rio, farther west, to provide an incident command location for command staff and troopers during incident responses. By being stationed in key positions in border towns, the mobile command units are facilitating real-time operational command, enabling dispatch capabilities, and offering downlink options for both fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles. They’re also providing logistical support for trooper transportation and equipment conveyance to enhance operational efficiency and readiness.
Five unmanned aerial vehicle pilots with drones have also been deployed to support OLS with visualization and surveillance in areas of dense foliage, low light or during night operations.
Twenty Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, two mechanics, 10 shallow draft vessels capable of navigating variable depth river environments, and 24-wheel-drive patrol vehicles were also deployed.
This is the second time DeSantis has sent personnel and resources to assist with Operation Lone Star. From June 26 to August 14, 2021, Florida personnel were stationed in Del Rio and Eagle Pass. While there, they made contact with 9,171 illegal foreign nationals, including 7,891 adults and 1,190 children, according to the state. They also made 311 criminal arrests, including 79 involving human smuggling, 16 involving stolen vehicles and 43 involving narcotics.
While the Biden administration has consistently argued the border remains closed, over 7.7 million people have illegally crossed since January 2021, including apprehensions and gotaways, former CBP and Border Patrol chiefs estimate. In the first four months of this year, illegal border crossings in the southern border alone total more than the population of six states. In the first seven months of this fiscal year, total border crossings at the northern border were greater than the previous four fiscal years combined.
Since OLS was launched in April 2021, as of May 19, Texas OLS officers have apprehended over 376,000 illegal foreign nationals and made more than 28,000 criminal arrests, with over 25,000 felony charges reported. They’ve also seized over 416 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill more than everyone in the United States, according to data from Gov. Abbott’s office.