A little over six weeks after the timer ran out on Donald Trump’s four-year power trip, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott figured out a way to keep fanning the flames of hate at the southern border. On March 6, he announced that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) was launching Operation Lone Star (OLS) to address a “crisis” that “continues to escalate because of Biden Administration policies.” As 2021 ends, Abbott’s misguided boondoggle has found a way to careen even further off the rails.
Wildlife cameras in Mission, Texas, this week recorded armed National Guard members patrolling a private road inside the National Butterfly Center, according to reporting from Type Investigations and The Intercept. The footage follows earlier sightings of soldiers taking an “aggressive posture with the rifles across their chests” moving all around the Center and alarming employees.
The Center is a privately owned nonprofit nature preserve where several thousand young students visit annually to observe butterflies and learn about flora and fauna. Employees are raising the concern that these uninvited armed soldiers may act recklessly or accidentally around children and other innocent people.
Although Abbott likes to insist that the presence of troops, even on private property, is necessary because of “the Biden administration’s open-border policies,” the Center’s director points out the obvious, that the appearance of National Guard soldiers everywhere is for Abbott’s “personal and political gain.” In any event, there is no agreement allowing soldiers or DPS officers to patrol the Center, and soldiers continue to enter despite “No Trespassing” signs, according to the report.
Although the National Guard admitted there is no new threat, a spokesperson claimed what matters is that “Abbott has the authority to arm us at any time should the situation arise.” When asked about the possible use of lethal force while children and others visit the property, the Guard did not offer reassurance but unnervingly asserted that self-defense rules “are in place.”
Rep. Joaquin Castro, along with other Texas Democrats, are calling for the federal government to investigate OLS for the “excessive militarization of border communities” and “unwarranted” entry on private property that “can lead to real consequences and trauma.” Civil rights groups this week filed a separate complaint with the Department of Justice alleging OLS is discriminatory. This escalating situation needs to reverse course quickly in 2022.