Pablo De La Rosa is a freelance journalist, reporting statewide for Texas Public Radio and nationally for NPR.

Ukraine images foreshadow scenes in the Rio Grande Valley as Abbott sends APC’s to the border as part of Operation Lone Star

An image posted to social media by the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of Lithuania shows the delivery of M113 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.

Last Updated: Sunday, November 20, 2022 6:55 PM CST

Abbott sends M113 to the border

The governor’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star (OLS), continues to escalate militarization for communities like the Rio Grande Valley along the Texas-Mexico border as expenses for the program run into the billions of dollars.

In April, the U.S. National Guard in several states sent 200 armored personnel carriers, or “APCs”, to Ukraine in support of the Pentagon’s effort to aid in the war against Russia.

On Friday, The Texas Tribune broke the story that the Texas Military Department will be sending 10 of the same APCs to the Texas-Mexico border. This comes just days after Texas Governor Greg Abbott invoked the “invasion clause” of the U.S. and Texas constitutions.

The M113 APCs will be used for national guard support on the Texas-Mexico border, not as weapons of war like in Ukraine. We also don’t yet know where the 10 units will be placed.

State officials have yet to identify the positions where they will be stationed “along the border”, according to the Texas Tribune Article.

Only around 50 soliders will be trained to operate the APC’s, according to a recent report by Fox News. However, the Texas Military has not provided more detail about how the APCs will be used.

While the APCs can be outfitted with weapons, they have historically also been used in the field to retrieve injured individuals over rough terrain like the kind that Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can currently only reach on horseback in some areas.

From the Texas Tribune Article:

The order issued Thursday by Texas Military Department officials to the headquarters overseeing Operation Lone Star reveals that the National Guard will soon deploy 10 M113 armored personnel carrier vehicles to the border.

According to the order, around 50 soldiers will be trained to operate the vehicles, and state officials will identify 10 positions to station them along the border.

The Texas Military Department said in a written statement Friday that in addition to the 10 armored vehicles, the Texas National Guard is increasing “aircraft flights and security efforts” on the border.

“These actions are part of a larger strategy to use every available tool to fight back against the record-breaking level of illegal immigration,” the department said. “The Texas National Guard is taking unprecedented measures to safeguard our border and to repel and turn-back immigrants trying to cross the border illegally.”

Abbott’s office has not responded to requests for comments.

Images of M113 foreshadow scenes in the Rio Grande Valley

But images from the war efforts in Ukraine showing delivery of the M113 APC’s foreshadow scenes that border communities may see over the next few weeks.

An image posted to social media by the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of Lithuania shows the delivery of M113 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.

The M113 are “tank-like” in design, but are not tanks in terms of their reinforcement or fire power. In other parts of the country, they are used by SWAT and other security teams to provide navigation over rough terrain while providing protection from gunfire.

These APC’s actually went into production in the 1960’s and only a limited number exist today.

An image posted to social media by the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of Lithuania shows the delivery of M113 armored personnel carriers to Ukraine.

Rio Grande Valley advocates have recently given Senate testimony against Operation Lone Star

In November, immigration rights advocates from the Rio Grande Valley, including from La Unión Del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), testified against Operation Lone Star at a hearing of the Texas Senate Committee on Border Security.

From the Rio Grande Guardian:

In their testimony, the border community activists said OLS promotes racial profiling, fuels the mass incarceration of people of color, and encourages white supremacy rhetoric. They argue the money given to OLS would be better spent on street lights, healthcare, and workforce training.

The border advocates called on members of the committee to visit the border and see how Colonia residents live in fear. 

Here is some of their testimony:

“Moreover, due to Operation Lone Star, border residents and citizens of the United States have been subjected to racial profiling and mistreatment by the state police and the Texas National Guard just because they look or they are Latinos living at the Texas border.

Several studies such as the one conducted by the Texas Civil Rights Project showed that in just one county, Kinney County, traffic stops targeting border residents rose rose by 1,000 percent since the beginning of the operation, while the detention of immigrants and drug interdiction did not rise at the same proportion.

So, the meaning of this is that, long term, border residents are being impacted disproportionately by Operation Lone Star. 

About

Pablo De La Rosa reports on immigration, border communities, preserving democracy, and Latin America for Texas Public Radio and NPR from the Texas-Mexico border, where he grew up. He’s the host of the daily Spanish newscast TPR Noticias Al Día and a regular contributor at The Border Chronicle.

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