Texas officials: National Guard, state law enforcement holding line at border

As far as I know it’s the first time in American history that a state has led the effort to prevent people from entering the United States illegally,” Gov. Abbott said.

Published: May 19, 2023 11:34pm

(The Center Square) -

Texas National Guard troops continue to "hold the line" at the southern U.S. border, state officials said on Friday, a week after the Title 42 health authority ended.

Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday provided an update on the state’s border security efforts in Brownsville, Texas, which he described as “ground zero” for illegal border crossings.

The historic area was also “ground zero” for a major battle fought and won by the U.S. Army in the Mexican-American War 177 years ago, on May 8, 1846.

Abbott said he came to Brownsville, “which has been ‘ground zero’ in the United States in the aftermath of [President] Joe Biden lifting Title 42. Many people can remember that the night when Title 42 was lifted and in the ensuing days the riverbank behind me was the location where migrants repeatedly tried to enter the United States illegally."

Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety officers were able to prevent that because they built "the barriers that were needed to prevent people from entering and then having the personnel behind those barriers to ensure that no one would enter," Abbott said.

“As far as I know it’s the first time in American history that a state has led the effort to prevent people from entering the United States illegally,” the governor added.

According to an analysis by The Center Square, Gov. Sam Houston in 1860 implemented border security measures on two fronts, describing the dire situation in an address to the legislature.

Houston said “a considerable portion of our State, bordering upon the Rio Grande River, is in a state of tumult and war – our frontier is unprotected and harassed by Indians, and our treasury … is without a dollar … beyond the amount necessary to meet the current expense of government for the present year.

“By virtue of the constitutional power vested in the Executive, to resist invasion, I felt fully authorized” to call up the Texas Rangers and the state militia, “who were familiar with the use of arms” and “can be made available at any moment to repel invasion, or crush rebellion.”

One of the reasons for the crisis, Houston said, was because “Mexico is in a continual state of anarchy. Her population feel none of the influences of a stable government. Lawless chieftains plunder them with impunity, and light the torch of civil war at pleasure. Riot, murder and revolution reign above law and order.”

Similarly, Abbott has designated Mexican cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations and repeatedly called on Biden to do the same. Over 40 Texas counties have declared an invasion at the southern border, citing Mexican cartel violence and crime, including the trafficking and smuggling of people, drugs and weapons threatening the security of Texans.

Abbott, like Houston, argues it’s the responsibility of the federal government to secure Texas’ border with Mexico. Houston never received federal assistance because a few months after Abraham Lincoln was elected president, the Civil War began, Texas seceded in February 1861, and many fighting on the Texas-Mexico border were pulled to fight a new war on a new front.

The federal government today isn’t sending troops to defend the border unlike 1860, Abbott and many others argue, because the Biden administration is facilitating the crisis.

Abbott has consistently argued that securing the border is “the responsibility of Joe Biden and the federal government.” Because the federal government won’t do it, Texas will, the governor said.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has repeatedly said the southern border is secure.

On Friday, he emphasized, “There’s only one reason why people were trying to enter illegally in the first place and that’s because they perceive the permission by the Biden administration to enter.”

“Texas was able to secure the border and prevent people from entering illegally only because of their unprecedented effort in a challenging terrain and sweltering conditions,” Abbott said.

The governors of Idaho and Florida committed to send National Guard and state troopers to assist Texas with border security.

Twenty-four governors have pledged support, saying in a joint statement, “While the federal government has abdicated its duties, Republican governors stand ready to protect the U.S.-Mexico border and keep families safe. … We support the efforts to secure the border led by Governor Abbott.”

At Friday's news conference, Texas Military Department Brigadier General Matthew Barker said, “The eyes of Texas and indeed the entire nation have been on our guardsmen for the past few weeks and they have performed flawlessly. I am so proud of their skill, their professionalism, their operational agility, and their resolve … to hold the line. We will continue to hold the line.”

Baker and the governor spoke at a location roughly five miles from the first major battle of the Mexican-American War, where on May 8, 1846, an outnumbered U.S. Army pummeled the Mexican Army and drove them south in the Battle of Palo Alto.

The state of Iowa, which has pledged support to aid Texas, has many counties named after the battle, including Palo, Palo Alto, Ringgold, Page, and Taylor.

Like the 24 governors pledging their support to help Texas defend its border today, in 1846, men from all over the United States came to fight Mexico in and around Brownsville under the command of General Zachary Taylor, including West Point graduates Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant.

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