By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has launched a new Operation Lone Star task force to track and apprehend gotaways – the term used by Border Patrol agents and law enforcement who illegally enter the U.S. intentionally in between ports of entry to evade law enforcement. Many have criminal records and are single young men of military age, BP agents and law enforcement officers have told The Center Square.
While an OLS Task Force launched many months ago by Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd to pursue gotaways, cartel operatives and smugglers operating along Highway 59, this task force is led by the Texas Department of Public Safety in the Rio Grande Valley. They are also using K9s and drones to detect, track down, and apprehend what has become record numbers of gotaways entering the U.S. every month.
In November, overall, known and recorded gotaways entering the U.S. illegally through the southern border totaled more than 93,000 – meaning nearly 100,000 people entered the U.S. illegally from all over the world and law enforcement has no idea who they are or where they are.
OLS DPS officers have played a vital role since OLS was launched in March 2021 – acting as the calvary to support local law enforcement offices that don’t have the resources or staff to handle the volume of people coming through small communities near the border. In McMullen County, for example, slightly 100 miles north of the Texas-Mexico border, the number of people who came through in one month was seven times greater than its population.
In one recent action, the new DPS unit apprehended roughly 50 illegal foreign nationals hiding in the brush near La Joya and Mission, Texas. In another, working with Border Patrol agents, they apprehended 30 people hiding in the brush in Sullivan City, in Hidalgo County – all from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador who’d entered illegally as gotaways.
In routine OLS operations, DPS officers are continuing to disrupt human smuggling operations. During a recent commercial vehicle safety inspection of an 18-wheeler in Jim Hogg County, officers discovered the driver was smuggling 15 people, including a child, hidden inside a gravel trailer. The driver was from San Antonio and was charged with human smuggling.
Since last March, OLS law enforcement officers have apprehended 333,000 foreign nationals in the country illegally and made more than 22,000 criminal arrests, with more than 20,000 felony charges reported, according to state data.
Those who are apprehended who aren’t arrested for committing state crimes are “referred to Border Patrol.” This is one reason why the Republican Party of Texas, conservatives and judges have called on Gov. Abbott to declare an invasion and repel it – to prevent illegal entry and deliver those who illegally enter to the Mexican border, not to Border Patrol. Under current Biden administration policies, BP agents, with some exceptions, are ordered to release them into the U.S. instead of processing them for deportation.
In order to “provide relief” to local communities, the governor directed the Texas Department of Emergency Management to transport those who are released by BP agents and voluntarily agree to be sent north to so-called “sanctuary cities.”
As of Dec. 9, Texas has bused more than 8,500 people to Washington, D.C., since April, over 4,000 to New York City since Aug. 5, over 1,300 to Chicago since Aug. 31, and more than 260 to Philadelphia since Nov. 15.