Officers continue to thwart human smuggling attempts, arrest known criminals
By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Since Gov. Greg Abbott launched Texas’ border security efforts through Operation Lone Star in March 2021, law enforcement officers have apprehended more than 355,000 foreign nationals after they’ve illegally entered Texas through the southern border.
They’ve made over 25,000 criminal arrests, with more than 23,000 felony charges reported, according to state data. They’ve also seized more than 366 million lethal doses of fentanyl, more than enough to kill everyone in America.
“Operation Lone Star continues to fill the dangerous gaps left by the Biden administration’s refusal to secure the border,” Gov. Abbott said. “Every individual who is apprehended or arrested and every ounce of drugs seized would have otherwise made their way into communities across Texas and the nation due to President [Joe] Biden’s open border policies.”
In response to a recent ruling that the Biden administration’s plan of releasing illegal foreign nationals en masse into the U.S. instead of deporting them was illegal, Abbott said, the ruling was “what Texans – and Americans – have known all along: President Biden’s open border policies are, in the words of Judge Wetherell, ‘akin to posting a flashing ‘Come In We’re Open’ sign on the southern border.’”
The president’s catch-and-release program, Gov. Abbot said, “violates his constitutional duty to enforce federal immigration laws, has catalyzed an unprecedented crisis of illegal immigration at our southern border and throughout our nation.
The Texas governor added that President Biden’s border policies are “putting all Americans in imminent danger. President Biden must start enforcing the immigration laws that are already on the books. That means aggressively prosecuting illegal crossings between ports of entry, and locking up those illegal immigrants who ‘shall’ be detained according to Congress itself.”
Recent apprehensions provide a glimpse into the daily reality of Operation Lone Star.
In Maverick County, a state trooper observed a black Ford F-150 stopped on the side of the road with hazard lights flashing. He stopped to provide assistance and learned the driver, an Hispanic woman from Austin who spoke no English, said in Spanish that she’d received a text message from her 14-year-old son saying he was lost in the brush, officials said.
Using GPS, the trooper found the teen about a half mile from their location. The teenager, who was driving a car illegally, confessed to having led law enforcement officers on a pursuit earlier in the day, officials said. He also confessed to smuggling 6-7 Mexican nationals who’d entered the U.S. illegally. They’d all bailed out of the vehicle to avoid being caught and got lost.
Ultimately, law enforcement found them, officials said, the Mexicans were referred to Border Patrol and the teenager was charged with smuggling of persons.
In another instance in Maverick County, a DPS brush team arrested a group of illegal foreign nationals for criminal trespass. One of the men, a Honduran national, had a criminal record and was wanted for homicide in Honduras, officials said. He will be extradited pending state charges for criminal trespass.
In Webb County, troopers attempted to perform a traffic stop on Sunday after the driver of a pickup truck committed a traffic violation and refused to stop, officials said. They engaged in a pursuit and were eventually caught and arrested.
Troopers recovered four large bundles of marijuana in the possession of two teenagers. The 17-year-old driver was from Zapata, Texas; the 16-year-old passenger was from Laredo. Both were charged with evading arrest and possession of marijuana.
In Hidalgo County, a DPS brush team helped locate a stash house in Palmview, where they found eight Mexican and Guatemalan nationals who’d entered the U.S. illegally, including a 15-year-old girl. Several said they paid smugglers $1,500 each to be brought into the U.S. illegally.
In Kinney County, the driver of a pickup truck, a female resident from Houston, was pulled over after committing a traffic violation. When the officer opened the back of the pickup truck, he found men wearing camouflage laying in the flatbed under a cover, officials said. Others were hiding inside the truck on the floorboards and back seat. In total, 12 were hiding inside and referred to Border Patrol.
When asked, “Who are all these people?,” she replied, “I’m always picking up people if they need a ride home. That’s what I was doing.”
Houston is roughly a six-hour drive to Kinney County.
When asked, “How many people are in there?” She said, “I’m not too sure. The truck is really full.”
She was arrested and charged with smuggling of persons.
Several bills have been filed this legislative session to increase penalties for human smuggling, ranging between 5-10 years in prison per count.