First Texas National Guard troops move into new Eagle Pass base

Gov. Greg Abbott inaugurated the base, which will be able to house at least 1,800 troops when construction is finished.

EAGLE PASS, Texas — This story includes reporting from the Texas Tribune. 

Governor Greg Abbott was at the Texas-Mexico border Friday welcoming soldiers to a new military base camp built as part of Operation Lone Star, his ongoing clampdown against illegal border crossings. 

The Forward Operating Base, located in Eagle Pass, is expected to house 1,800 Texas National Guard troops. On Friday, 300 moved in. 

Construction on Forward Operating Base – encompassing six phases in all – started earlier this year and is still underway on an 80-acre lot along the Rio Grande. Abbott says it will save taxpayers more than $11.5 million in housing costs, calling it a more efficient way of securing the border while increasing quality of life for soldiers working there. 

On Wednesday Abbott posted a video to his social media account showing the base camp close to completion.

According to Abbott, soldiers currently securing the border are scattered in different areas; the new base, he says, amounts to a superior strategy. He echoed similar refrains calling out the Biden administration for what he called an “open-border policy,” alleging the federal government has allowed millions of migrants to cross into Texas illegally. 

“This base camp is a far superior strategy that for one will allow the state to be able to have our troops right on the border itself,” Abbott said, speaking in front of troops, humvees and a helicopter. “But for another, provide the type of housing and standards of living that improve the quality of life for the men and women who are wearing a uniform.”

The Biden administration is reportedly preparing to roll out new executive action limiting migrants’ ability to seek asylum in the U.S. once a certain daily threshold of border encounters is reached. 

According to the Austin American-Statesman, once it’s finished, the base will include living quarters, a dining facility, gym, armory and other features for troops. Based on information from a purchase order, Forward Operating Base will operate through Sept. 7 with options for two-year extensions. 

Thousands of Texas Guard members have been deployed to the border since the state began Operation Lone Star in March 2021. Along with Department of Public Safety troopers, they are tasked with patrolling the border and apprehending asylum-seeking migrants, who are often charged with trespassing on private property.

2022 investigation by the Military Times and the Tribune found that one in five troops reported problems with their pay, shortages of critical equipment and living in cramped trailers. At least four members died by suicide in the first few months after the mission began.

A group advocating for a compassionate approach to border and environmental issues denounced the base’s opening.

In a statement Thursday night, the Eagle Pass Border Coalition pointed to its location next to a sewage treatment plant and a concrete plant that could expose soldiers to health risks. The group also juxtaposed the state’s investment in the base with the lack of state investment in nearby colonias — low-income neighborhoods that don’t have basic infrastructure like running water.

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