State troopers see ‘increased posture’ among suspected members of smuggling organizations

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Texas continues to ramp up manpower and equipment along our border with Mexico as a record number of immigrants have been caught crossing the border illegally.

By the end of August, Border Patrol reported more than 1.5 million people had either been caught crossing the border or deemed inadmissible to the United States. Border Patrol’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30, and the number of encounters for that month has not yet been released.

On Thursday, Texas Department of Public Safety officials gave an update on their efforts, which began March 4 when Gov. Greg Abbott initiated “Operation Lone Star.”

DPS South Texas Regional Director, Victor Escalon, reported troopers have made more than 6,983 arrests since the operation began and have been involved in 791 vehicle pursuits.

Escalon highlighted a recent case where the driver of a car live-streamed her run from troopers on Facebook. The driver was arrested after she lost control and crashed. Escalon said the driver was carrying a gun.

“She was arrested for evading, human smuggling and possession of marijuana,” said Escalon.

Escalon said troopers have also confiscated thousands of pounds of drugs. During the briefing, troopers provided a surveillance photo of several armed men gathered on the Mexican side of the border.

“They were armed and they had body armor. This has been an increase in activity that we’ve noticed along the river in Starr County,” said Escalon.

Escalon said it is not yet known whether this “increased posture” was due to Texas increasing its presence on the border or from fighting among smuggling operations.

“That’s something, in my years of experience, is fairly new to be so obvious and overt about their operation,” said Escalon.

The Texas Military Department reported it has constructed 3.27 miles of security fencing on farm and ranchland near the border, with plans to construct another 60 miles. Donations for Texas’ border now top more than $54 million. According to records obtained by KPRC 2 from the Governor’s office, more than $53 million in donations came from Wyoming billionaire, Timothy Mellon.

Congress remains at an impasse on long-term solutions to the border crisis and the issue of immigration reform. Republicans have criticized Pres. Joe Biden’s administration for removing the Remain in Mexico program, which forced asylum to stay in Mexico while their claims are decided. A recent ruling by the US Supreme court meant the federal government had to reinstate the program. Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar said he’s been told the program, formally known as Migrant Protection Protocols, will restart in the Laredo area next month. However, the Department of Homeland Security has stated it is also working to end the program permanently.

A federal court judge ruled the Biden administration did not follow proper procedure when ending MPP and therefore it had to be reinstated. The Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal on the lower court’s ruling.

“Have they started the process to follow the rules so they can get rid of MPP, yes, but in the meanwhile, they will follow the MPP as ordered by the Supreme Court,” said Cuellar.

Cuellar, along with Texas Republic Senator John Cornyn, authored a bill to address what many consider a “pull factor” to the United States. The bill calls for a massive increase in the number of immigration court judges and prosecutors so asylum claims can be decided at the border within days of an immigrant’s arrival, rather than allowing the person to remain in the United States while it takes the court’s years to make such a decision.

“Out of a hundred people asking for asylum, 88 to 90% will be rejected,” said Cuellar.