Speed Reads

Operation Lone Star

Texas error means National Guard troops deployed in Abbott's border mission face surprise tax payments

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) state border enforcement effort has been in the news lately mostly for the buses he has chartered, at a cost to taxpayers of $14 million and counting, to send migrants to a handful of Democratic-run cities. But that's just a small part of Abbott's $4 billion Operation Lone Star initiative.

Abbott says Operation Lone Star, a deployment of thousands of National Guard troops and state police to south Texas to arrest migrants on state charges, is necessary to augment insufficient federal border enforcement. Critics call it a cynical and wasteful election-year political stunt. Just about everybody agrees the operation has been plagued with problems.

In the latest Operation Lone Star issue, National Guard members are discovering that a tax-withholding error at the Texas Military Department means they'll owe hundreds or thousands of dollars in federal taxes from their deployment, The Texas Tribune reported Thursday. "I was wondering why I was making so much," one peeved Army officer told the Tribune. "Wow. Just wow."

"The tax blunder is the latest strike against" Abbott's hasty border mission, the Tribune recaps. For months, Guard members "were paid late, too little, or not at all," and the long involuntary deployments have "prevented some members from being able to keep their civilian jobs."

The Texas Military Department on Thursday identified an Operation Lone Star soldier who died of a self-inflicted gunshot Tuesday as Army National Guard Spc. Demetrio Torres. Torres, 20, is the 10th service member known to have died while assigned to Operation Lone Star, the Tribune reports, after four suicides, two accidental shootings, a motorcycle accident, a soldier who "died of a blood clot after a long security shift in July amid a record heat wave," and another who drowned saving two flailing migrants

Counties that opt to participate in Operation Lone Star have also struggled to jail and prosecute all the migrants they arrest. On Wednesday, an attorney representing Kinney County acknowledged his office pursues criminal charges against migrants, even after they've been deported, because that's how it gets funding from Operation Lone Star.

Despite Kinney County's "minimal court system," its "staunchly conservative leadership has embraced the governor's border crackdown more than any other county, accounting for the vast majority of arrests and cases," the Houston Chronicle reports. "Do I like this overall thing?" the county attorney, David Schulman, told a Texas appellate court, referring to Operation Lone Star. "No, I think it's a waste of time and money."