AUSTIN, Texas - Troopers and border agents continue to catch undocumented immigrants as part of Operation Lone Star.
Tuesday morning, at the State Capitol, a group of immigration advocates called the border operation a waste of money.
"So we are here today to remind Texans that Operation Lone Star is not only a failed public policy, but it cheats Texans out of a future where all of us, no matter our legal status, is able to contribute productively," said Jaime Puente with Every Texan.
The call to end the border crackdown comes as federal officials admit the number of migrant encounters for border patrol agents in October dramatically increased from a year ago. The Texas Senate committee reviewed the costs of the operation as well as how to fund it in the next budget.
"Some people may criticize Lone Star. For us as a state we do have a responsibility to provide protection to our communities, and we as a border state cannot just look the other way and throw up our hands, the federal government isn't doing their job, so we just stand down, I don’t think that’s a right approach," said State Senator Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, a Democrat from El Paso.
The hearing was overshadowed by a social media post Tuesday morning by Governor Greg Abbott. He invoked the invasion clauses of the U.S. and Texas constitutions. That action, and what it actually means, prompted committee chairman Brian Birdwell to ask this.
"Does the governor intend to engage in Combat Operations?" asked the Republican from Granbury.
The governor's border and policy director Sarah Hicks offered an explanation.
"I don’t think it is a change to an overall tactic as it is a reminder to all of Congress and to the members working the issue that this is serious, it demands a full and serious response," said Hicks.
DPS director Steve McCraw, when asked about the governor's invasion declaration, said it will not change the rules of engagement for troopers. He did warn the cartels have changed tactics.
"When you take fentanyl and start adding it to, whether it’s a look alike of oxytocin, Oxycodone, Percocet, Xanax, Adderall, it doesn't matter, they basically, what they are doing is a bait and switch," said McCraw.
The sheriff of Tarrant County, Bill Waybourn, testified it’s not just about getting people hooked. He testified what an inmate, in his jail, said when asked why the cartels are willing to kill their clients.
"'It’s okay, it's in fact whatever kills the gringo is good with us,' and our team explained to him, 'well it's indiscriminate, it's hitting the Asian community, it's hitting the Hispanic community, it's shifting into the African American community,' and the cartel member says everything North of the Border is gringo, and it is a weapon," said Sheriff Waybourn.
At the protest rally that kind of warning was condemned.
"You see laying it out as an immigration issue is a lie. And it’s intentionally done to keep separation between communities," said Davis Johnson with Grassroots Leadership.
The committee was also told the governor has expanded his migrant bus routes to Philadelphia. The 301st bus left Tuesday morning and, so far, more than 13,000 people have been taken out of state.
In a related development, a federal judge in Washington DC blocked Title 42. That’s the federal rule drafted during the Trump administration to address COVID-19 concerns and sends illegal immigrants back to Mexico to await processing. Without that rule, there's concern illegal crossings will increase.