McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — An additional 50 National Guard troops from Tennessee have been deployed to patrol the Texas-Mexico border to help stem the flow of illegal drugs north, the governors for both states have announced.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says the troops will arrive from Tennessee in early 2022 and will assist the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety as part of Operation Lone Star, which he began in March to combat the smuggling of migrants and drugs across the Rio Grande.

On Wednesday, Abbott took to social media to thank Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee for sending the troops.

“Our country is stronger when we tackle dire issues together,” Abbott tweeted. “The entire nation is experiencing the effects of the federal government’s failure to address the drug trafficking crisis.”

“An open border has far-reaching consequences that are fueling a drug crisis impacting both our national security and the safety of our state,” Lee said in a statement. “I have authorized additional Tennessee Guard support at our Southern border as we look to address drug trafficking at the source.” 

“Our soldiers and airmen are capable and ready to come to the aid of our fellow Americans along the Texas border,” Tennessee Adjutant General Maj. Gen. Jeff Holmes said.

Lee told the Times News that the troops will join 300 other National Guard from Tennessee that are already deployed to the Texas-Mexico border.

He said Tennessee is suffering from a rise in overdoses from fentanyl and methamphetamine that are illegally brought into the state.

“We have a serious drug problem and an understanding these drugs are not being manufactured in Tennessee. They’re coming from somewhere else,” he said “Tennesseans are dying in record numbers from illegal drugs that are coming across our Southern border and straight into Tennessee. And something should be done about that. I think we have a failed border policy. I have strong belief we ought to do everything we can.”

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that in Fiscal 2021, almost 200,000 pounds of fentanyl and methamphetamine were seized on the Southwest border.

(Graphic by U.S. Customs and Border Protection)

In 2020, Tennessee recorded over 3,000 drug overdose deaths — a 45% increase from 2019, according to a report by the Tennessee Department of Health.

“States across the nation are experiencing the harrowing effects of the federal government’s failure to address the drug trafficking crisis along our southern border,” Abbott said. “Our country is stronger and safer when we tackle dire issues together, and I thank Gov. Lee for these additional members of the Tennessee Guard who will join Texas in securing the border and protecting our communities.”

Since March, thousands of National Guard troops have converged upon Texas to take part in Operation Lone Star, which is currently involving using shipping containers to line the banks of the Rio Grande, as well as a blockade of boats to stop border traffic.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at ssanchez@borderreport.com.