A controversial new immigration policy championed by Texas Governor Greg Abbott has now taken effect in the state, sparking intense debate nationwide. Abbott’s Operation Lone Star aims to curb unauthorized border crossings by ramping up arrests and deploying thousands of National Guard troops and state police to the border.

While supporters argue the program is necessary to control a surge in immigration, critics say it encourages racial profiling and violates the civil liberties of migrants and U.S. citizens alike. As Operation Lone Star gets fully underway, all eyes are on Texas to see how this divisive approach to immigration enforcement will play out.

Abbott’s Controversial New Immigration Enforcement Policies

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas recently signed several controversial law measures to tighten immigration enforcement along the state’s southern border. According to reports, illegal border crossings into Texas have declined significantly recently.

Souce: Britannica/Greg Abbott

In July 2023, Abbott signed three laws passed during special legislative sessions that provided funding for the ongoing construction of a border wall and increased penalties for human smuggling. The new laws are intended to curb illegal immigration into Texas and protect citizens, as Abbott contends the Biden administration has failed to effectively secure the border.

Shift in Unauthorized Crossings

Data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection indicate a sharp decrease in apprehensions of undocumented migrants crossing into Texas in January 2024 compared to the previous month. Experts suggest the drop may be due, at least in part, to migrants avoiding Texas in favor of crossing into neighboring states with less stringent enforcement, like California and Arizona.

Source: NBC News

“Migrants generally have excellent intelligence on where’s supposedly easiest to cross into the U.S. and will be all too aware of Abbott’s crackdown,” said Mark Shanahan, an expert in American politics at the University of Surrey.

Key Components of Abbott’s Plan

Abbott’s plan to strengthen border security involves several key components. Firstly, Abbott deployed thousands of Texas National Guard troops to the Texas-Mexico border to combat illegal crossings. According to the Governor’s press release, the National Guard has been instrumental in reducing illegal border crossings.

Source: Reuters/Jose Luis Gonzalez

Secondly, Abbott’s plan provides funding for the ongoing construction of physical barriers along the Texas-Mexico border. Finally, Abbott’s plan aims to crack down on human smuggling. The new laws signed by Abbott will impose harsher penalties for those caught smuggling undocumented migrants into Texas.

Expected Impacts on Immigrant Communities

Abbott’s controversial immigration policies are likely to negatively impact immigrant communities in Texas. Abbott’s policies aim to curb illegal immigration by restricting access to resources and making living conditions inhospitable for undocumented immigrants. However, these policies may also inadvertently impact immigrant communities with legal status.

Source: NBC News/John Moore

For instance, policies that aim to limit access to driver’s licenses, housing, and healthcare for undocumented immigrants can create additional barriers for legal residents seeking these resources. Rhetoric portraying immigrants as “invaders” may foster discrimination against immigrant groups.

Social and Economic Impacts

Abbott’s policies strengthen border enforcement and expand immigrant detention, which often leads to the separation of immigrant families. The separation of parents from their children, even when temporary, can be severely traumatic and have long-term consequences on child development and family dynamics.

Souce: The New York Times/Todd Heisler

While Abbott’s policies aim to curb undocumented immigration, they may negatively impact the Texas economy, which relies heavily on immigrant labor. Restrictive immigration policies can reduce the immigrant workforce and make Texas less attractive for businesses, potentially slowing economic growth.

Decline in Illegal Border Crossings Into Texas

Governor Greg Abbott’s policies aimed at securing the Texas-Mexico border have likely contributed to a decrease in illegal crossings into the state. However, experts note that the shifting migration patterns are complex, with multiple factors at play.

Source: AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

According to statistics from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, border officers made nearly half as many arrests for illegal southern border crossings in January versus December, with a drop from 249,000 to 124,220. Political scientist Mark Shanahan suggested migrants are aware of increased security measures in Texas, leading them to attempt crossings in California and Arizona instead.

Arizona and California See Sharp Increases

Figures from the U.S. Border Patrol’s Tucson Section indicated a rise in unauthorized crossings into Arizona over the same period. Border Patrol apprehended nearly 14,000 migrants attempting to cross into Arizona during the last week of January 2024, more than double the number from a year earlier.

Source: Washington Times/Ross D. Franklin

Likewise, internal government documents obtained by CBS News revealed that about 60 percent of all unauthorized border crossings now occur in Arizona and California. Jason Cabel Roe, a Republican strategist, told Newsweek that “when you make it more difficult in Texas, the flow is naturally going to move to the western states.”

Contrasting Views on Biden Administration Border Policies

Governor Greg Abbott’s tightening of security along the Texas-Mexico border appears to be pushing illegal migrants to attempt crossings into neighboring states instead. According to Mark Shanahan, an expert in American politics at the University of Surrey, California, and Arizona have become national “weak spots” as a result of Abbott’s crackdown.


While Texas may seem forceful, Shanahan argues that Abbott’s actions are futile unless replicated in other border states like California, Arizona, and New Mexico. U.S. Customs and Border Protection data showed a sharp decrease in overall crossings in January compared to December, indicating that illegal migrants are conscious of tightened security in Texas and are, therefore, targeting other states.

Long-Term Impacts and Political Context

Governor Abbott’s stringent border security policies have likely contributed to declining illegal border crossing numbers in Texas, according to experts. However, the impacts of these policies extend beyond Texas’ borders.

Souce: Reuters/Go Nakamura

Jason Cabel Roe, a veteran Republican strategist, agrees with Shanahan’s analysis. Roe claims that increasing the difficulty of crossing in Texas naturally diverts the flow of migrants to Democratic-led western states less focused on border security. Roe sees the decline in Texan border crossings as evidence that strong enforcement works.

The Future of Immigration in Texas Under Abbott

Governor Greg Abbott’s strict immigration policies and border security efforts in Texas are anticipated to significantly impact illegal immigration in the state. According to political experts, Abbott’s measures have likely redirected unauthorized border crossings to neighboring states with more lenient policies, like California and Arizona.

Source: Facebook/Greg Abbott

Mark Shanahan, an expert in American politics at the University of Surrey, stated that migrants generally know locations with less stringent border security, thus avoiding Texas. “Both organized gangs and migrants simply looking for a better economic future have always probed the border for weak points, and for the moment, those are mostly in California and Arizona,” Shanahan said. “