VIDEO: Abbott Credits TX for Fewer Unlawful Migrant Encounters

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the border
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at the border | Image by Greg Abbott/Facebook

Gov. Greg Abbott has credited the performance of Operation Lone Star for the decrease in unlawful migrant encounters logged at the southern border, but experts on the subject have proposed different reasons for the dip in numbers.

The number of encounters with unlawful migrants has dropped significantly in recent months, with fewer than 200,000 reported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in the last three months.

This decrease follows a record-high number of encounters in December 2023, with CBP stating that officers encountered 301,981 unlawful migrants along the southern border.

Additionally, the Lone Star State accounted for roughly 59% of encounters during FY 2023, with the percentage down to just 43% during the first months of FY 2024, according to The Texas Tribune.

During an interview with Fox 7 Austin, Abbott claimed that Texas has had a “profound impact” on unlawful border crossings, citing an average of just five or fewer people crossing into the United States in Eagle Pass since the Texas National Guard took over the site, noting that those persons are getting arrested. “The results are tangible,” Abbott said, explaining that there used to be 3,000-5,000 unlawful migrants crossing at Eagle Pass per day.

“Texas, which represents two-thirds of the entire border with Mexico, used to have more than two-thirds of the illegal crossings. Now about three-fourths of the illegal crossings are in California and Arizona and New Mexico, not the State of Texas,” Abbott said, per Fox.

Andrew Mahaleris, a spokesperson for Abbott’s office, said in a statement that many unlawful migrants have decided to travel further west to cross into the United States, claiming that such decisions are due to “Texas’ efforts to secure the border,” according to The Texas Tribune.

“Until President Biden steps up and does his job to secure the border, Texas will continue utilizing every tool and strategy to respond to this Biden-made crisis,” he said.

Although Abbott and his office are taking credit for the decrease in unlawful migrant encounters, immigration experts have pushed back and claimed the Lone Star State’s actions may not have had a meaningful impact.

Tony Payan, director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at the Baker Institute, said there was no real evidence to show that Texas’ efforts are the reason for decreased encounters.

“He can, with no evidence and no real deep analysis, claim all the credit he wants to — and good for him,” he said, as reported by The Texas Tribune. “But those of us who have been looking at immigration for a long time would probably be a lot more skeptical.”

Victor M. Manjarrez Jr., who previously worked for Border Patrol for 22 years, said many factors were involved.

“We’ve always treated the border as a simple line on a map, but it’s more than that — it’s an ecosystem. An ecosystem that is impacted by variables very close and very far, and very far is also outside the U.S., right? It’s not only Mexico, but you’re talking about other countries,” he explained, according to The Texas Tribune.

Operation Lone Star has cost state taxpayers at least $10 billion since it began in March 2021, with one specific initiative costing nearly $150 million.

The process of busing unlawful migrants to sanctuary cities has helped transport more than 100,000 migrants since April 2022, with the state spending more than $148 million on the program, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.

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