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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 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, the Department of State Health Services and the Department of Juvenile Justice will each see tens of millions of dollars taken out of their budgets to fund the border mission, Abbott said.
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In a letter to the agencies, Abbott said “this transfer will not affect any agency or program functions.” The governor’s office did not answer whether the agencies would later be reimbursed or see budget cuts, instead referring questions to Abbott’s original announcement.
The price of Operation Lone Star to taxpayers is more than $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 stand by as President Biden continues to turn a blind eye to the crisis at our southern border,” Abbott said in his statement. “The safety and security of Texans is our top priority, and we will continue to fight to keep our communities safe. This additional funding ensures that the Lone Star State is fully equipped to provide Texans with the border security strategy they demand and they 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 in illegal border crossings under the Biden administration. The project includes the deployment of thousands of state police and National Guard soldiers to the border, as well as Abbott’s state-funded border wall project.
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The increase in funding comes as Abbott has implemented border initiatives such as boat blockades and barbed wire at border crossings and chartered buses to Washington, DC, for immigrants 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 immigrants entry into the US because of the coronavirus.
The announcement also comes a week after a Texas National Guard soldier drowned in Eagle Pass while trying 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 that $465.3 million of the $500 million will go to the Texas National Guard.
The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs and engages with Texans on public policy, politics, government, and state affairs.