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Gov. Abbott Orders South Texas Prison To House Undocumented Immigrants, TDCJ Says

 The Dolph Briscoe Unit prison is seen on the horizon. It's a long, gray building dotted with tiny windows and surrounded by fences. A brown grassy field is in the foreground.
Billy Hathorn
The Dolph Briscoe Unit in Dilley.

Gov. Greg Abbott has ordered the state Department of Criminal Justice to move inmates from a south Texas state prison to make room for immigrants who have crossed the border unlawfully, a department spokesman confirmed on Thursday.

TDCJ began moving incarcerated people from the Dolph Briscoe Unit in Dilley on Wednesday as part of the governor’s Operation Lone Star initiative, announced in March. Department spokesman Jeremy Desel confirmed in a statement that those people will be moved to other prisons with available capacity, allowing the Briscoe unit “to serve as a central holding facility for non-TDCJ detainees who have been arrested and charged with a state offense.”

“The state of Texas continues to deal with a significant number of individuals illegally crossing the border,” Desel said. “To address the ongoing crisis, Governor Abbott is directing state resources to arrest and confine those individuals crossing the border unlawfully and who have committed a state or federal crime.”

The news was first reported by the Marshall Project.

In addition to the governor’s office, TDCJ is also working with the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and the Texas Division of Emergency Management to enact the plan. Desel said the agency will provide “appropriate services to the population” by working with the Windham School District and the University of Texas Medical Branch.

Operation Lone Star came after the governor declared a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border, and is a joint initiative with the DPS and the Texas National Guard. The program provides more border security resources to border areas, which Abbott called “high threat areas.”

The Texas Legislature recently approved a $250 billion budget that included $1.1 billion in border security funds for the state, some of which has gone to TDCJ.

News of the relocation comes one day after Gov. Greg Abbott announced he would crowdfund a border wall project. The $250 million down payment on that project will come from TDCJ’s general revenue fund, though the governor's office called it a temporary use of funds.