State Watch

Texas National Guard troops were ordered as private security for wealthy ranches, service members say

Roughly 30 Texas National Guard members stood watch outside the properties of wealthy private ranch owners in South Texas earlier this year in an effort to crack down on illegal immigration.

The ranches were over an hour drive away from the U.S.-Mexico border, but troops were present to try to deter migrants who might have looked to cross the border via private properties to avoid Border Patrol checkpoints, according to The Texas Tribune

Service members familiar with the mission told the Tribune that those stationed at the ranches, almost 80 miles from the border, rarely saw migrants from their positions and that even if they did, they were not authorized to enter the private properties. 

As a result, the service members said they stood around for hours and wasted their time at the ranches of wealthy or politically involved people when they could have been stationed closer to the border, according to the outlet.

“We really don’t understand why we are there,” a service member said to the Tribune. “We’re essentially mall security for ranches that already have paid security details to protect them.”

“These ranchers have enough money to do private security or have private security guard these gates,” another service member told the outlet. “The optics are just kind of crazy.”

The troops were removed from their stations in February, not long after the Tribune began asking about their posts, per the outlet.

But some local officials supported the troops’ presence at the ranches.

“Since they’ve been there, the number of bailouts and the number of intrusions into private property and going through gates and fences has decreased,” Kenedy County Judge Charles Burns, a Democrat whose ranch residence was guarded by some of the service members, told the Tribune. “I think their presence has been very beneficial to the county.”

“We needed it,” Kenedy County Sheriff Ramon Salinas said, according to the outlet. “They’ve come through for us, and I appreciate everything the governor has done.”

But neither Salinas nor Burns could show official evidence or data that supported their claims, the Tribune noted.

The Hill has reached out to the Texas Military Department for comment. 

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