from the fantasies-and-gubernatorial-masturbation dept
Never mind the economy. The real inflation is coming from government agencies seeking to justify their waste of taxpayers’ money.
While not otherwise occupied killing state residents with electric grid mismanagement or passing laws restricting their speech, Texas governor Greg Abbott has been touting the success of his personal border surge program — one he insists has led to record-breaking amounts of contraband seizures and arrests.
On March 4, the governor stated “Operation Lone Star” had been an unmitigated success, claiming his ability to throw money and bodies at a perceived problem had resulted in plenty of law enforcement wins.
Governor Greg Abbott, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and the Texas National Guard today mark the one-year anniversary of Operation Lone Star (OLS)—an unprecedented, comprehensive mission to address the Biden-made crisis at Texas’ southern border. Officially launched on March 4, 2021, OLS integrates DPS assets, including Texas Highway Patrol Troopers, Special Agents, Texas Rangers, Rotary and Fixed Winged Aircraft and Tactical Boat Teams, along with the Texas National Guard and local law enforcement to secure the border.
Since the launch of OLS, multi-agency efforts have led to more than 208,000 migrant apprehensions, along with more than 11,800 charges for criminal offenses— including more than 9,300 felony charges. Members of notorious gangs like the Texas Chicano Brotherhood, Bloods, Mexican Mafia, MS-13, and others have been taken off the streets. DPS has arrested sex offenders, weapons traffickers, previously convicted and deported criminal immigrants, drug dealers, and other wanted criminals. In the fight against fentanyl, DPS has seized over 269 million lethal doses throughout the state.
Some of this is true. A lot of it is barely partially true. Governor Abbott forgot to consider one crucial fact: public agencies produce public records. And those records show the governor — along with his law enforcement partners — moved goalposts, expanded reporting to include areas far inland from the border, and massaged numbers to make the program appear successful. And it completely fails to show how this was an improvement over existing enforcement efforts, which would have saved Texas taxpayers $1 billion/year.
ProPublica — reporting in conjunction with the Texas Tribune and The Marshall Project — show the governor’s assertions are mostly bullshit.
First off, the coverage area of “Operation Lone Star” was expanded to include several inland counties — ones that did not receive additional funding from the state under this program. From the ProPublica report:
According to the Texas Department of Safety, the belated inclusion of counties with zero contact with the border was nothing more than an effort to “better reflect the mission” of the operation by capturing arrest and seizure data occurring up to 300 miles inland. But it offered no explanation as to why these stats should be counted since these counties were not recipients of extra funding or staffing. The DPS — one of the few agencies willing to release data to public records requesters — also failed to demonstrate whether the reported stats showed significant improvement over those generated by normal, non-extra-billion-dollar border enforcement programs.
So, what sort of dangerous criminals were the combined forces (Highway Patrol, National Guard troops, “special agents”) able to stop using this combination of increased numbers and increased funding?
Until this year, Val Verde and Kinney were the only two counties prosecuting people crossing into the country through private property for trespassing.
The misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail, makes up about 40% of the operation’s arrests from mid-July to Jan. 27, an analysis by ProPublica, the Tribune and the Marshall Project found.
Trespassing. Hardly the sort of thing justifying 40% of a billion dollars per year. It may be a crime but, in a large majority of cases, no one is trespassing with nefarious intent. They’re simply taking the most straightforward path to cities and towns where they can find food, shelter, and employment.
There’s another reason for the over-representation of this misdemeanor. Going after trespassers gives state and local agencies something to do with their border surge personnel and money. Border enforcement is the fed’s job. Local cops can detain suspected undocumented immigrants, but the arrests and charges are federal. Looking for “trespassers” allows Texas agencies to look useful and possibly explain what they’re doing with all of Abbott’s extra funding.
There is another reason for this border push: Governor Abbott’s continued employment. The governor held campaign events where he handed out fake pill bottles labeled “Beto Biden open border” that pointed to 1,334 fentanyl-related deaths in Texas in 2021. That’s not all the faux bottles said:
Inside was a mock warning label that credited the seizure of 887 pounds of fentanyl, or what he called more than 201 million deadly doses, to Operation Lone Star. Days later, Abbott repeated similar claims in a press release from the governor’s office.
But stats from the Department of Safety tell a different story. Only 160 pounds were seized in the areas the operation targeted. The inflated number Abbott linked to Operation Lone Star was actually the total of all seizures across the state. Even the 160 pounds attributed to the operation by the DPS was inaccurate.
All but 12 of the 160 pounds of fentanyl were captured in El Paso County, which was not one of the ones listed by DPS officials in November as receiving additional troopers and National Guard members from the operation. The county was one of several that declined to sign on to the governor’s border disaster declaration.
The report punches holes in every claim made by Gov. Abbott and the DPS. All that can be said for sure is more than a billion dollars have disappeared into a border enforcement hole with no quantifiable return on investment. And the effort appears to have been more motivated by Abbott’s desire to remain in office than in response to increased threats or danger at the border.