Texas: The Issue Is – State Rep. Matt Schaefer on reorganizing Operation Lone Star
AUSTIN, Texas - Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security action, known as Operation Lone Star, is now entering its third year with Texas national guard members and state troopers continuing to go through deployment cycles and costs exceeding $2 billion.
A growing number of people under the Capitol dome are wondering how this mission can continue as is.
House Bill 20 was filed in an attempt to answer that. The legislation, drafted by state Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler) would reorganize the mission by creating a new state border guard unit.
READ MORE: Hundreds travel to Austin to call on Abbott to end Operation Lone Star
State Rep. Schaefer sat down with FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski to talk about HB 20.
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: Right now, the primary workforce, when you look at the just sheer quantity, comes from the Texas National Guard. Those are temporary workers. That sergeant who standing by the river is really a diesel mechanic from east Texas. He has to go back to his job. And in fact, the state can only keep him on active duty orders for a certain period of time. So we have a temporary workforce that's applied against a full time problem.
RUDY KOSKI: There are those who say that this is nothing but vigilantism.
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: These will be professional state employees under the authority of the Department of Public Safety Commission with a special authorization from the governor. They will have gone through training. They will have accountability. They will have rules and they will function in many of the same ways that the Texas National Guard under Operation Lone Star are operating right now.
RUDY KOSKI: Will they be able to use deadly force?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: So our officers are going to be able to protect themselves and have self-defense. But any type of use of force would only be done with the governor's authority
RUDY KOSKI: How do you envision these encounters, will they use handcuffs, Tasers?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: The Border Protection Unit officers will have the authority to do what they need to do to protect Texas at the river.
RUDY KOSKI: Will they be able to shoot back?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: They will be able to protect themselves. If they were ever, if their lives were in danger. But the primary thing that we want to do is; create a deterrent at the river so that people will come into Texas the right way.
RUDY KOSKI: Will this guard be trained like DPS troopers, or are they going to be like the border volunteers, the ranchers who are out patrolling?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: There will be no volunteers that are involved here. The Border Protection Unit will be a mixture of licensed peace officers and then individuals who've been trained and qualified to be part of the Border Protection Unit who will have a limited arresting authority from the governor. Exactly the way the Texas National Guard has now.
RUDY KOSKI: How large of a force could this be?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: The goal is a gradual build up of the border protection unit, and hopefully then the Texas National Guard can decrease in numbers so that it begins to balance out.
READ MORE: Operation Lone Star marks one year amid controversy, allegations
RUDY KOSKI: Courts have said the border is the federal government's responsibility. Isn't this overreaching?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: Certainly the other side will challenge this in court. And in some ways, we're in uncharted territory. But I believe Article one, Section ten of the US Constitution talks about a state being in imminent danger. And when you have people dying, you have women and children being exploited at great in great numbers, then I believe Texans are in imminent danger. And we need to step up and take a fundamentally bolder approach.
RUDY KOSKI: A state lawmaker referred to this idea as creating death squads. How do you react to that?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: That's just someone trying to scare people.
RUDY KOSKI: Your legislation gives these individuals civil and criminal protection.
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: These officers will have the same liability protections that our police officers and our sheriff's deputies have, no different.
READ MORE: Texas Operation Lone Star taking mental toll on service members, top generals say
RUDY KOSKI: Will there be some type of oversight?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: The Bill adds an inspector general, and there will be a legislative oversight committee.
RUDY KOSKI: Is this all about fighting the cartels, the fentanyl crisis? Is this the push?
STATE REP MATT SCHAEFER: The cartels or harming Texans? People have lost the peaceful use and enjoyment of their homes. Ranchers have had their fences cut and livestock lost. Women are afraid to be alone on their property without a gun. Women and children, abandoned, fentanyl deaths all over the state, all over the country at enormous scale. It is time for the state of Texas to take a bolder, fundamentally new approach to how we handle the border crisis.