Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that the Texas National Guard has so far deployed around 760 guardsmen along the U.S.-Mexico border in response to a call to action from President Trump.
That number will increase, Abbott said, at a rate of about 300 a week until 1,400 troops have been sent to support border patrol operations.
The governor spoke from the Sergeant Tomas Garces Texas Army National Guard Armory in Weslaco, where he received an update on the deployment and visited with Guardsmen.
Abbott defended the decision to send National Guard troops, and said the government was fulfilling its border security duties to the state of Texas.
“This operation is necessary in order to deal with what has been an escalation of cross-border traffic,” he said. “There has been an increase of more than 200 percent of people coming across the border without authority. There has been an increase of more than 200 percent of heroin coming across the border illegally.”
He also said there had been more than a 200 percent increase in the number of MS-13 gang members crossing the border, though he did not specify a time frame.
He said troop morale was “very high,” citing positive interactions with newly-deployed service members and Brig. Gen. Gregory Chaney, director of Joint Staff at the Joint Force Headquarters in Austin.
"The National Guard is getting calls from some of their members who want to participate," Abbott said. "In addition, I've received calls from governors in other states who want to volunteer their National Guards."
When asked about how National Guard troops will interface with border patrol, Abbott said, “we are still awaiting the final instructions from Homeland Security as well as the Department of Defense.”
“But it is our understanding that they (the National Guard) will in no way be involved in any type of apprehension or confrontation process,” Abbott said.
Abbott added National Guard troops will perform support duties — such as air surveillance — in support of border patrol operations.
“What this is is a force multiplier,” he continued. “Because, by adding the National Guard to perform all these other functions, it frees up border patrol to have more badges on the border.”
Carson Frame can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @carson_frame