Deployment of PA National Guard troops to Southern border gets closer as Mastriano’s bill approved by committee

19 March 2024- Sen. Doug Mastriano (R-33) and a majority of his colleagues on the Senate Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee today approved a measure he introduced calling on the governor to deploy the Pennsylvania National Guard along Texas’s southern border with Mexico as part of Operation Lone Star.

“Pennsylvanians have an interest in protecting our nation’s southern border and preventing an influx of immigrants and illegal drugs from reaching our communities,” said Mastriano, who serves as chairman of the committee. “Some of the fentanyl that is killing our kids is arriving from Mexico.”

The committee approved Mastriano’s Senate Resolution 251, which calls on Gov. Josh Shapiro to offer the services of the Pennsylvania National Guard to the state of Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott initiated Operation Lone Star in March 2021 in response to the unprecedented rise in illegal immigration. Operation Lone Star personnel work to detect and repel illegal crossings, arrest human smugglers and cartel gang members, and stop the flow of deadly drugs like fentanyl.

In May 2023, Abbott sent letters to governors requesting support for Operation Lone Star. So far, 14 states – Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming – have responded and deployed personnel and resources to secure the border. 

According to a 2023 report, at least 251,000 illegal immigrants reside in Pennsylvania with an annual burden of more than $1.6 billion on taxpayers.

Illegal immigration costs Pennsylvania taxpayers more than this year’s state budget allocated for the departments of Agriculture, Community and Economic Development, Conservation and Natural Resources, Drug and Alcohol Programs, Environmental Protection, Health, Military and Veterans Affairs, Transportation, Labor and Industry, and State, and the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency combined. The cost of illegal immigration is more than double the size of the increase in spending for the Department of Education in this year’s state budget.

The committee also approved Senate Bill 1099, which Mastriano introduced to reauthorize a popular and effective grant program for fire and emergency medical services (EMS) companies. The program is scheduled to expire June 30.

The grant program allocates up to $30 million, with fire companies eligible for grants of up to $20,000 and EMS companies eligible for grants of up to $15,000.

Mastriano’s bill would reauthorize the grant program for 10 years.

The committee also approved Mastriano’s Senate Bill 1101, which would change the way firefighters can obtain certification. Firefighters currently must take a cumulative test after finishing all their training. Mastriano’s bill would enable firefighters to take tests for each training module as they finish them.

“These bills would ensure fire and EMS companies continue to have access to important financial resources while also streamlining the firefighter certification process,” Mastriano said. “The end result will be safer communities for Pennsylvania families.”

Mastriano’s resolution and two bills now head to the full Senate for consideration.