The border mission, dubbed Operation Lone Star began in March but has now entered a new phase in recent months as Abbott announced the state would begin arresting undocumented migrants who either slipped by or were released into the U.S. interior by federal immigration authorities.
Some critics of the mission have argued that the activations are a political ploy by Gov. Greg Abbott, who faces a primary challenge from former state Republican Party chair, Allen West, a former Army officer, and hardline conservative rival.
They also argue that the practice of arresting undocumented migrants, paired with increased penalties for trespassing, is overwhelming the local justice system and leaving undocumented migrants vulnerable to getting “lost in the system”.
The Texas National Guard is massively expanding its state active duty mission in the U.S.-Mexico border, with “thousands” of troops already there and “thousands more on the way” via unit-level involuntary mobilizations, Texas Military Department officials confirmed to Army Times.
Even as the mission expands, Texas has slashed its tuition assistance budget by 54 percent – to roughly $1.4 million – to comply with the state-mandated budget reduction. The benefit cut from the soldiers comes after the Texas legislature provided a $300 million funding boost for the Texas Military Department’s border mission.
According to Army Times, before the cuts, the state offered $4,500 in reimbursement per semester, which cost the state just over $3 million combined in fiscal 2020 and 2021, which pales in comparison to the $300 million authorized to fund Guard troops.
The sudden funding cut pulled the rug out from Texas Guard troops who may have been depending on the reimbursement, cutting the standard TA award to $1,000 and establishing a new priority list for who gets the money – roughly 714 students against a total of more than 20,000 troops – and who doesn’t.
The National Guard’s state-specific tuition assistance benefits are a major recruiting and retention tool that are commonly considered to be a necessary cost of doing business amid an era of increased state-specific missions for the Guard.
Nigrelle, a Texas Military Department spokesperson, said they will continue to assess and advocate for important benefit programs, like State military Tuition Assistance.
One soldier who had to withdraw from his fall semester courses due to activation spoke to the Army Times and said the state’s word wouldn’t pay for their tuition bills
“Cutting my TA by half probably means I’m gonna have to take some private loans to pay for school, Fuck this,” he said.