Boredom reigns at border as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott drags out National Guard deployment

One nurse in the state's National Guard said they're also desperately needed back home to deal with COVID

Published January 29, 2022 4:26PM (EST)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Getty Images)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Getty Images)

This article originally appeared on Raw Story


According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is taking heat from Democrats and members of his own party after deploying National Guard members to the border with Mexico with no clear mission and little support while they sit there.

As WSJ's Elizabeth Findell reports, some members of the Guard are sitting around doing nothing and not getting paid after being pulled off of their civilian jobs for "Operation Lonestar."

As Retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jason Featherston, who served as senior adviser to the Texas Army National Guard put it, "I've never seen the magnitude of problems of Operation Lone Star."

According to Findell, "Last spring, Mr. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, which involves sending troops and state police to the border and arresting immigrants on state trespassing charges, saying he was looking for ways to take federal immigration enforcement into state hands. Now, complaints within the ranks and concerns about the troops' treatment could cast a pall over an operation that has been central to Mr. Abbott's public messaging. Republican pollsters and consultants said there is no issue of greater importance to the party's voters in Texas than border security and immigration."

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

That has led to sniping from some of Abbott's rivals for his job, with the Journal reporting, "Two Republican primary challengers of Mr. Abbott, Allen West, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel, and former state Sen. Don Huffines, have called for more troops on the border. They say the mission to the border lacks focus and have said in speeches and interviews that Mr. Abbott is using the troops for political theater."

Democrats have also piled on with the Journal reporting, "...on Wednesday, 50 Democrats in the Texas Legislature sent a letter to the Department of Justice and Department of Homeland Security, requesting an investigation into the operation. The letter cited concerns about treatment of Guardsmen, as well as treatment of immigrants, stress on local justice systems and the role of private militia groups in the operation."

In a statement from Abbott's office last week, the embattled governor claimed, "The mission for the National Guard and Texas DPS has been clear: deter and prevent immigrants from entering Texas illegally, including building barriers to achieve those goals, and to detain and arrest those who are violating Texas law," however there has been pushback from the guardsmen.

RELATED: How extremist Christian theology is driving Texas' right-wing assault on democracy

"A large part of the problem with the troops stems from boredom, say Texas National Guard members deployed at the border," the report states. "Many members of the National Guard, who don't have authority to enforce immigration laws, say they do very little during the day, and frustration has risen amid difficult living conditions, financial stress and months away from their families. Some have been on the mission longer than overseas deployments, without the same support resources, they said."

According to one member of the National Guard who is a nurse, they're needed back home to help deal with the Covid pandemic after being called to duty last summer.

He didn't receive a paycheck for months and mortgage payments back home drained his savings account to the point that when he had a week off from the mission, he spent it working long hospital shifts trying to put some money in the bank," the report states with the soldier adding, "Truthfully, I'm not doing anything here. We're in the middle of a pandemic and we have a critical nursing shortage."

The report continues, "Some members reported getting paid late or not at all for months, causing them to dip into savings and miss mortgage payments. The Texas Military Department said Tuesday that all soldiers had received at least one paycheck and some 80% of pay issues had been resolved," before adding, "Between mid-October and mid-December, four Guardsmen killed themselves. Two of them were actively serving on a border deployment, the department confirmed. The other two had been ordered to deploy and sought exemptions, according to copies of their hardship requests."

You can read more here -- subscription required.

By Tom Boggioni

MORE FROM Tom Boggioni

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Border Covid-19 Deployment Greg Abbott Mexico National Guard Nurse Politics Raw Story