AUSTIN, Texas (CBSDFW.COM/AP) – Governor Greg Abbott sent a letter Tuesday, July 27, to Major General Tracy R. Norris, Adjutant General of the Texas National Guard, ordering guardsmen to assist the Texas Department of Public Safety with arresting people for “state charges related to the border crisis.”

During the Governor’s Border Security Summit in Del Rio in mid-June, Gov. Abbott announced people who “commit criminal trespass or other state offenses will be subject to arrest and confinement.”

“This order builds upon the Governor’s disaster declaration that directs DPS to enforce all federal and state criminal laws including for criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking,” Gov. Abbott’s Office said in a news release.

“To respond to this disaster and secure the rule of law at our Southern border, more manpower is needed—in addition to the troopers from DPS and soldiers from the Texas National Guard I have already deployed there—and DPS needs help in arresting those who are violating state law,” the letter reads. “By virtue of the power and authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the State of Texas, I hereby order that the Texas National Guard assist DPS in enforcing Texas law by arresting lawbreakers at the border.”

Critics have previously voiced concerns of governors using Guard members to take an active role in law enforcement. Other GOP governors have deployed National Guard members to the border in recent months, including South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a potential 2024 presidential contender who flew to Texas this week to check in on roughly 50 Guard members who volunteered for a 30-day deployment.

Kate Huddleston, an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, called Abbott’s latest orders “unusual and extremely troubling.”

“We are concerned for asylum seekers and other migrants who are coming to the United States, and also we are concerned for border residents who have borne the brunt of this law enforcement saturation on the border in the past and are doing so again,” Huddleston said.

In addition to it being unclear how Texas National Guard members would help with arrests, Abbott did not say how many members on the current deployment would be part of those efforts. Abbott has been vague when making other border security announcements, including his plans to continue building Trump’s border wall without giving a timeline or total cost.

The arrests so far by Texas state troopers have taken place in Val Verde County, where local officials say they were told that only individuals traveling alone would be arrested, and not family units. The detainees are being held at what had been an empty state prison in Dilley, Texas, about 100 miles (160.93 kilometers) north of the border city of Laredo.

County Judge Lewis Owens, the top elected official in the county of nearly 50,000 residents, said crimes including home break-ins, theft and property damage are on the rise in the recent months as the number of crossings has remained high. Violent crimes, he said, were not an issue.

U.S. officials reported this month that they had encountered 55,805 members of families with children in June, up 25% from the previous month. That figure still remains far below the high of 88,587 in May 2019.


(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.) Staff