By BETHANY BLANKLEY
THE CENTER SQUARE CONTRIBUTOR
(The Center Square) – Texas National Guard soldiers have apprehended or encountered more than 103,000 illegal foreign nationals in the Rio Grande Valley alone since Operation Lone Star launched last year.
According to Texas Military Department Task Force East data, these individuals all entered Texas illegally in between ports of entry after being guided by cartel operatives to cross the Rio Grande River into Texas.
During a recent enforcement action at the southern border, a Texas National Guard soldier stationed near Laredo described an encounter with nine people who’d entered Texas illegally after they’d crossed the Rio Grande River in between ports of entry and were trespassing on a private ranch. Soldiers had tracked the group through the brush and helped Border Patrol agents apprehend them.
“Oftentimes, we’ll get a group that will disperse in areas like this,” 2nd Lt. Joshua Helton, Alpha Company Platoon Leader, Task Force Center said in a video published to educate the public. “Every night is different. Usually during the weekdays, we’ll get multiple groups, and we have to be smart and maneuver from one point to the other and maneuver our assets as well to make sure we get in position for other groups.”
“Every day we come into work and notice that a lot of Border Patrol sections are understaffed, so I feel that having our presence here definitely helps,” Staff Sgt. Joel Martinez, Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry said in an announcement released by Gov. Greg Abbott’s office. “We go into a local gas station, and the locals are always thanking us for doing what we do here.”
Also actively involved in OLS are Texas Department of Public Safety officers working to thwart human smuggling activity on highways to and from border towns.
In Webb County, in Laredo, for example, in one traffic stop, DPS Criminal Investigations Special Agents discovered 11 Guatemalans (eight men and three women) hidden inside a tractor trailer, attempting to be transported north.
This is a common occurrence, law enforcement officials have explained to The Center Square. Sheriffs and their deputies as well as police officers in counties throughout Texas are regularly apprehending smugglers hiding people inside of trailers, 18-wheelers, in car trunks and truck beds.
In another instance in Webb County, DPS troopers stopped a vehicle for a traffic violation when five male foreign nationals bailed out and ran into the brush. They were later apprehended, and the driver was arrested and charged with human smuggling.
Farther north in Brooks County, DPS troopers stopped another vehicle for a traffic violation. The driver was attempting to smuggle three people from Mission to San Antonio and was arrested for human smuggling.
Since Gov. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021, Texas law enforcement officials have apprehended more than 317,000 foreign nationals in the U.S. illegally. They’ve made more than 21,000 criminal arrests, with more than 18,600 felony charges reported. DPS has also seized over 342 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill everyone in the United States.
Texas has also bused over 8,200 people to Washington, D.C., since April, over 3,400 to New York City since Aug. 5, and more than 1,000 to Chicago since Aug. 31.