‘Operation Lone Star:’ Florida law enforcement makes nearly 200 arrests along southern U.S. border

Florida teams sent to help Texas with border operations

FHP Sgt. Yuknavage along the southern U.S. border in Texas. (Florida Governor's Press Office)

BROWNSVILLE, Tex. – Florida teams helped the Texas Department of Public Safety make more than 190 arrests along the southern border amid a “mass migration crisis” along the U.S.’s southern border, according to a press release from Gov. DeSantis’ office.

In the release, state officials said the Florida teams made contact with over 5,800 undocumented migrants — including one MS-13 gang member on the U.S. Terror Watch List, though his name was not provided.

The release shows that those teams were made up of members from Florida’s National Guard, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Florida Highway Patrol.

The agents were sent to help law enforcement in Texas with managing operations along the border — an operation dubbed “Operation Lone Star,” the release states.

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Florida wasn’t the only state to send law enforcement to help with the growing border crisis. Governors in Virginia, West Virginia and South Carolina in May sent members of their National Guard to the border to help out.

In an interview along the border, FHP Sgt. Yuknavage explained what the Florida teams had experienced there.

“We’ve come into contact with multiple migrants. They either cut (the fence), they either crawl over it, they crawl through it, and it’s just what we’re doing is basically grabbing hold of them,” Yuknavage said. “If they get over the wire, we turn them over to Border Patrol. They usually throw blankets over it. They try to get their family units through — mostly adults.”

However, Yuknavage added that many of those on the opposite side of the border were trying to pass through children.

“There’s people swimming halfway across, trying to give us their babies. I mean, literal babies,” Yuknavage said. “We had one on the line right here when they were trying to get through — they literally threw their baby over the line. It’s... something needs to be done.”

According to state officials, Florida law enforcement has arrested more than 190 people during Operation Lone Star on charges including human smuggling, drug paraphernalia, unlawful carrying of weapons and a suspected capital murder warrant.

This news comes as a federal appeals court sided with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody over keeping rulings in place that blocked Biden administration immigration policies.

The policies, known as “Parole Plus Alternatives to Detention” and “Parole with Conditions,” allowed releasing migrants into the United States amid issues such as overcrowding at detention facilities.

Meanwhile, Volusia Sheriff Mike Chitwood travelled to the southern border in Texas last year. Upon his return, he reported that the “porous” border was responsible for an uptick in drug-related deaths throughout Central Florida.

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.

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About the Author:

Anthony, a graduate of the University of Florida, joined ClickOrlando.com in April 2022.