On Friday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would deploy 1,000 Texas National Guard troops to the southern border. That would add to the other 1,000 Guard troops already there, plus the 1,400 active-duty soldiers.
Sig Christenson covers the military for the San Antonio Express-News and the Houston Chronicle, and says it’s not yet clear what the troops will be doing because he hasn’t been able to talk to anyone who’s been deployed.
“We have no access to those troops,” Christenson says. “I have tried repeatedly to embed, not just with the National Guard over the years, but with the active-duty force.”
By contrast, he says the military had permitted him to embed, as a reporter, nine times with U.S. troops overseas, but not at the southern border.
What the government has told him is that the troops are at the border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection. But one of their projects, he’s been told, is painting the border wall. Christenson says some view that as nonessential “make-work,” but he can’t verify exactly what they’re doing because he hasn’t been with them in person.
“What is actually happening, what these people are doing and whether they’re really being effective: it’s almost impossible to tell you that for sure,” Christenson says.
He says while Abbott announced he would send up to 1,000 Guard troops, it doesn’t mean he’ll send the full amount. Also, he says it’s peculiar that President Donald Trump didn’t use his own power to deploy the troops, and instead, he went through Abbott.
“His operational orders give him wide latitude in how many soldiers to add,” Christenson says. “[But] for some reason, [Trump] went to the state of Texas, and … there is a political component to it.”
While the federal government will pay for the deployment, it is Abbott who has control over the operation.
“That’s the genius of this is that the governor actually will control those troops,” Christenson says. “It means that these soldiers will definitely not have any involvement with people crossing the border, with migrants. … The one thing they do not want is an incident.”
Christenson says a number of years ago, a U.S. Marine shot and killed a man on the Mexican side of the border.
“It was a huge mess. Nobody wants to go down that road again; the governor will be careful,” Christenson says.
But beyond that, he says little is known about what Abbott has planned.
“We don’t really, again, know a whole lot about details of this operation because we have no media down there, able to cover it,” Christenson says.
Written by Caroline Covington.