The state military patrol that’s been on the Texas-Mexico border since 2014 just got a $2.3 million boost from the federal government to help keep it in place.

The Texas Military Department said on Monday it’s been allotted that money from the federal government to continue its border security efforts through the end of the current fiscal year.

The confirmation from Lt. Col. Travis Walters came after Gov. Greg Abbott said in a news release that the federal government is finally stepping up to help pay for more border security. 

“The taxpayers of Texas have funded border security, a federal responsibility, for far too long,” he said.

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Abbott added that the Texas National Guard serving in support of Operation Secure Texas, the state’s border-security mission, would "transition to federal orders" beginning in late July.

But Walters said the change would not affect what the Texas National Guard is currently doing.

“The transition from a state to federal status, in terms of funding, will not impact the mission of the Texas National Guard or its role in protecting and serving the citizens of Texas,” he said.

The money comes weeks after the state Legislature again appropriated $800 million for border security efforts over the next two years after allotting the same amount, then a record, in 2015. The majority of that funding goes to the Texas Department of Public Safety, however, and none of the funding for the upcoming biennium was slated to go to the Texas Military Department.

The state’s military presence has been concentrated in the Rio Grande Valley since 2014 when a surge of undocumented migration from Central America created a crisis situation. Proponents of the move said it was needed to help an overwhelmed U.S. Border Patrol, whose agents were ill-prepared to handle the influx and concentrate on border security efforts.

But critics of the deployment saw the effort as little more than political theater because the state’s soldiers weren’t tasked with enforcing immigration laws and instead only served to tarnish the region’s image.

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Former Gov. Rick Perry, who ordered the 2014 deployment, was also blasted by critics for the estimated $12 million monthly price tag that came with the order.

Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for additional comment on Monday’s announcement. The Texas Military Department didn’t indicate for how long after the fiscal year ended the guard would remain on the border.

Read related Tribune coverage:

  • The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety told lawmakers on Tuesday the agency can't predict when it will be able to scale back its border security operations in the Rio Grande Valley. [Full story]

  • Texas budget writers plan to spend another $800 million for border security over the next two years, matching what lawmakers allocated in 2015. [Full story]

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