(The Center Square) – Texas Department of Public Safety officers gave an overview of state law enforcement efforts to apprehend criminals illegally entering the U.S. through Texas and their efforts to combat the Mexican cartels enabling them.
DPS Director Steven McCraw said at a recent briefing in Weslaco, Texas, that the federal government’s failure to secure the border has “enabled the Mexican cartels to evolve into the most powerful and ruthless criminal organizations in the world, reaping billions of dollars from the trafficking of people and illicit drugs throughout the nation.” Texas is focused on doing what the federal government isn’t doing, he says, to keep Texans and Americans safe from cartels who are brutalizing the people they traffic across the border.
There are six Mexican cartels that control stretches along the Mexico border and access points to cross into Texas, DPS says. Their operatives “use violent, transnational and Texas-based gangs to transport illicit drugs and traffic people, operate stash houses, conduct enforcement operations and provide retail drug distribution in communities throughout the state,” DPS says. DPS’s efforts to disrupt gang and cartel activities “has a direct impact on what happens in Texas and the U.S.”
From October 2020 through September 2021, there have been a record number of migrant apprehensions and referrals in Texas, totaling more than 1.1 million people. The last time there was such a surge at the border was in 1986, McGraw notes, when slightly more than 726,000 people were apprehended. These numbers exclude the “got aways,” the hundreds of thousands who evade capture, who don’t surrender at the border checkpoints, who trespass on private property, committing crimes as they head north transporting people and drugs. The difference between 1986 and 2021, DPS says, is that Mexican cartels didn’t pose the same threat level to public safety that they do now.
Since Operation Lone Star began in March, DPS has seen a steep increase in vehicle pursuits. In the Del Rio area, pursuits are up 774% through July of this year with 236, compared to 27 in 2020. The Laredo area has seen an 86% increase year-over-year, with 140 in 2021 compared to 75 last year. In the Rio Grande Valley, there’s been a 40% increase in pursuits, with 163 through July 2021, compared to 116 in 2020.
From March to early September, DPS has made 5,298 criminal arrests, 694 vehicle pursuits, and 64,959 migrant apprehensions and referrals to Customs and Border Patrol agents. These arrests solely pertain to illegal immigration and exclude the arrests and pursuits they make as part of their regular law enforcement duties.
DPS is tasked with arresting illegal immigrants who commit state crimes. Those who commit the federal crime of illegal immigration are detained by DPS agents who then call Border Patrol agents to process them and hand them over to Customs and Immigration, whose officials then decide if the individuals can be processed to remain in the U.S. or not.
DPS has also made 278,191 drawbridge detections using real-time motion detection cameras on properties along the border.
Additionally, from March 4 through Sept. 8, DPS has arrested 199 known gang members.
“Our mission is to protect and serve,” DPS says. “Whenever the need arises, DPS will be there to protect the people of Texas.” Through Operation Lone Star, DPS is continuing its presence along the border with air, ground, marine, and tactical assets.