June 4, 2023

Four C-130 military transport aircraft towered over the tarmac of the international airport in Austin, Texas, idling with the doors open as the sun rose during a press conference called by the state’s governor, Greg Abbott. When Mr. Abbott began speaking at a lectern on Monday with the words “Securing the Border,” about 200 National Guard soldiers charged into the planes.

For two years, Texas has launched a multibillion-dollar effort to arrest and deter migrants entering the state from Mexico, deploying helicopters and drones; National Guard troops patrol the border in camouflage; and state troopers racing down highways in black and white SUVs. The state has bussed thousands of migrants to East Coast cities such as New York and lined the reed belts of the Rio Grande with concertina wire.

But the number of crossings into Texas has only increased.

This week, another wave arrived at the border with the end of a public health measure known as Title 42 that had allowed the government to rapidly deport large numbers of migrants for the past three years. Before the order was lifted at midnight, Texas doubled down on its response by not only sending more soldiers and police to the border, but also passing legislation that would impose new state penalties on migrants and people smugglers.

The legislative measures, some of which were expected to pass the State House this week, would expand and become permanent elements of the border enforcement program Mr Abbott unveiled in March 2021, known as Operation Lone Star. Through the program, Mr. Abbott pushed the limits of what the law allows, using his power as governor to send the guard and state police to the border, and applying state trespass laws to arrest migrants when they cross private property.