New Hampshire and Texas Groups Call National Guard Mission a Misuse of Tax Dollars

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Gov. Chris Sununu meets with a group of NH guardsmen from the 237th Military Police Company on March 26 at the Pembroke armory. The MPs are deploying this week in support of Operation Lone Star. Photo courtesy of NHNG Public Affairs.

By Arnie Alpert, Active with the Activists

Arnie Alpert spent decades as a community organizer/educator in NH movements for social justice and peace.  Officially retired since 2020, he keeps his hands (and feet) in the activist world while writing about past and present social movements.

Groups in Texas and New Hampshire say deploying the New Hampshire National Guard to Texas, where 15 New Hampshire soldiers joined Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star this week, wastes tax dollars better spent elsewhere.

Until June 4, 15 volunteers from 237th Military Police Company will be stationed at Base Camp Alpha in Del Rio, Texas, where their mission, according to Lt. Col. Greg Heilshorn, will be to “prevent, detect and interdict transnational criminal behavior between ports of entry, stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons and people into Texas in the United States, and then refer illegal immigrants to the official ports of entries.” 

“They’re not going to be physically arresting people that are coming across the border,” said Heilshorn, the NH National Guard’s director of public affairs.  “They’ll be in observation positions and what we call roving patrols. So, when they do observe illegal activity, or people coming across the border, they’ll report that.”

“It is a gross misuse of money that now not only the state of Texas is wasting, but is now including other states,” commented Karen Gonzalez of The Border Organization, a nonprofit community group based in Del Rio, a small city across the Rio Grande from Ciudad Acuña in the Mexican state of Coahuila.

“It’s a total waste of money,” agreed Eva Castillo of the NH Alliance for Immigrants and Refugees, “using our taxpayers’ dollars just to play politics with people’s lives.”

Another group of NH National Guard members went to the border for a year in 2022, in support of Customs and Border Patrol, a federal agency.  The latest deployment, however, is in support of the State of Texas, which is at odds with the Biden administration over border enforcement.   

The 15 MPs include 9 volunteers who were part of the earlier deployment.  None of them speak Spanish, Heilshorn said, but they will be equipped with a card printed with phrases they can use if they have any interactions with Spanish-speaking people. 

In 2021, Texas governor Greg Abbott declared a state of emergency, later stating that “the surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas–Mexico border posed an ongoing and imminent threat of disaster for a number of Texas counties and for all state agencies affected by this disaster.”  

Abbott launched Operation Lone Star later that year.  The exercise, which involves personnel from the Texas Department of Safety and the Texas Military Department, has already cost the state more than $10 billion. Its stated purpose is to secure the border; prevent, detect, and interdict transnational criminal behavior between ports of entry; stop the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people into Texas and the United States; deny the use of terrain to transnational criminal organizations; and to refer immigrants they believe to be unauthorized to official ports of entry. 

Under federal law, immigrants who have a fear of persecution in their home country can request asylum once they cross into the United States, whether their crossing is authorized or not. 

Heilshorn said the New Hampshire soldiers will not have specific training on the right of asylum.  Neither will they be trained to interdict firearms crossing illegally from the United States into Mexico, where according to a statement released last November by Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, “More than 500,000 American-made guns are trafficked to Mexico every year, and seventy percent of firearms recovered from crime scenes in Mexico can be traced to the United States.”  More than half of migrants seeking asylum in the United States said they had experienced “persistent and unrelenting gunfire” before arriving in the United States, according to a 2023 study cited by Stop U.S. Arms to Mexico, a research and advocacy group based in California.

Claiming that the large influx of migrants constitutes “an invasion,” Abbott has deployed troops and police at the border, placed a line of buoys in the Rio Grande to obstruct migrants, and erected razor wire along the riverside.  In December, Abbott signed a bill known as SB 4, which authorizes Texas police to arrest people they believe to be unauthorized immigrants on state charges and have them deported to Mexico.  That law is currently held up in federal court, where previous rulings have blocked states from superseding federal authority over immigration. 

Eagle Pass, 55 miles down the river from Del Rio, has become the epicenter of the controversy.  Abbott plans to build a new 80-acre military base there to house up to 2300 Operation Lone Star troops from Texas and other states.  In addition, Texas seized control of the city’s Shelby Park on January 11, not only excluding local residents but also ejecting federal border patrol officers. 

While the locals have been kept out, Shelby Park has become a staging area for visiting GOP politicians, including New Hampshire’s Governor Chris Sununu, who traveled there on February 4 to back up Abbott’s claim that his state’s foray into immigration enforcement was a matter of self-defense.   

“It is an affront to us as U.S. taxpayers and as citizens of this great state that you have seized our public park – which is owned by everyone – to support an extreme partisan political agenda that endangers our families,” said a February 7 letter to Gov. Abbott from the Eagle Pass Border Coalition, a local grassroots group.  “Our beautiful and safe public park has been taken away from us, and turned into a military style staging area, now being used as a backdrop for political theater by you, who live over 200 miles away, and out-of-state politicians.”

After his February trip to Texas, Gov. Sununu asked for a special appropriation of $850,000 “to facilitate a state active-duty operation of the New Hampshire National Guard in support of security activities at the southern United States border to protect New Hampshire citizens from harm,” including illegal traffic in fentanyl.  His proposal was approved by the Legislative Fiscal Committee on February 16.

Dozens of immigrants’ rights groups, peace organizations, and faith leaders responded with a statement that “New Hampshire needs affordable housing, substance use treatment, mental health resources, and much more—and Granite Staters have made it clear that using taxpayer dollars on immigration enforcement is not a wise nor supported use of that money. Using taxpayer dollars to send New Hampshire National Guard members to Texas is only designed to score political points and does nothing to improve quality of life in New Hampshire. Funding cruelty at the border is not what our state stands for.”

As for fentanyl, Amerika Garcia Grewal of the Eagle Pass Border Coalition says Sununu has his eyes on “the wrong spot.”  Fentanyl is crossing the border, she said, at the ports of entry, mostly in vehicles driven by U.S. citizens, not unauthorized migrants in remote rural areas.

According to the NH National Guard, the budget for the two-month deployment includes $300,000 for pay and benefits, $400,000 for lodging and meals, $50,000 on logistics, and $15,000 on “consumables,” with $85,000 in reserves. 

Karen Gonzales from Del Rio says the funds would be “better spent in their own state on addiction prevention and treatment programs.”

“Our area is economically underprivileged,” says Garcia Grewal.  “That’s one thing that makes Operation Lone Star so painful for us.  We’re seeing billions, billions and billions of dollars spent on these activities. And we’re not getting any kind of investment in our communities.”  Maverick County, where Eagle Pass is the county seat, had a median household income of $48,497 in 2022.  That’s about 55% of the median household income in Merrimack County, where the 237th Military Police Company is based.  “The tax dollars that are going to Operation Lone Star are dollars that are not going to our communities,” she added.

“Hard-earned taxpayer dollars should be invested in uplifting our neighborhoods, supporting the environment, and fostering true community safety, not in perpetuating hate, fear, and the militarization of border communities. It’s time to prioritize compassion over conflict, and invest in people and the planet,” said Matt Nelson of, a Latinx online advocacy group which is sponsoring a petition to demilitarize the Rio Grande Valley. 

Gov. Sununu has also been criticized for budgeting $1.4 million on a hyped-up crisis at New Hampshire’s 58-mile border with Quebec.  According to statistics the ACLU of New Hampshire obtained from the Department of Homeland Security, very few of the unauthorized border crossings taking place in northern states are in New Hampshire.  “I think what we’re seeing are politics coming into play here, where people are trying to leverage perceived concerns with the southern border to New Hampshire and trying to argue that there needs to be increased enforcement here when the data doesn’t support it,” said Gilles Bissonette, the organization’s legal director.

New Hampshire is far from the only state sending troops to Texas.  According to Bob Libal, who monitors Operation Lone Star for Human Rights Watch, Louisiana, Missouri, Nebraska, Indiana, Iowa, Utah, Florida, South Dakota, North Dakota, West Virginia, Arkansas, Tennessee, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Idaho have sent or made commitments to contribute troops or police to the Texas project. 

Wherever they are coming from, Garcia Grewal warns the National Guard members to be careful.  It’s not danger from local residents or migrants they should heed; it’s a harsh environment with rattlesnakes, inch-long thorns, and a “sun that kills.”

Temperatures often rise above 100 degrees she said, and “people die of exposure here, every single year, quite literally in the hundreds.”  That’s why she routinely stocks her car with bottled water, which she’ll give away to anyone she sees who might need it.  Her advice to the New Hampshire group: “Wear your sunblock, drink more water, drink more water than you ever thought you ever would.”

Garcia Grewal is also one of the organizers of a prayer vigil in Shelby Park on the first Monday of every month, held to remember the hundreds of people who have died trying to cross the river and the many more who put their lives at risk seeking a better life in the United States.  With the park now surrounded by a chain-link fence and guarded by armed soldiers, vigil organizers have had to negotiate with the Texas Military Department’s chaplain to gain access.  But they’ll be there again on May 6, 30 minutes before sunset.  Garcia Grewal says members of the New Hampshire National Guard will be welcome to attend. columns express the opinions of their writer, not the news outlet. welcomes diverse opinions in op-eds by emailing

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