(The Center Square) – The number of illegal immigrants apprehended at the southern border by the Texas Department of Public Safety in the past year has somewhat mitigated what is otherwise a huge problem because the Biden administration is failing to enforce U.S. immigration laws, a former U.S. Border Patrol executive says.
While Texas is acting as the first line of defense at the southern border, former Border Patrol Chief Rodney Scott said, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents want to do their jobs but are being held back by Biden administration policies.
Within five months of President Joe Biden taking office, Texas saw an increase of 2,000 people entering the state every day in rafts, boats and through gaps in the unfinished border wall, Gov. Greg Abbott said last year. That number has only increased over time.
In the first two months of Operation Lone Star, a network of now 1,600 state troopers working with local and federal law enforcement, Texas DPS made more than 30,500 referrals to U.S. Border Patrol, and reported an 800% increase in the amount of fentanyl confiscated compared to the previous year.
Since last March, when the operation began, state troopers have arrested over 10,000 illegal immigrants, including smugglers and drug traffickers, Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw said. That’s in addition to the apprehensions made by local sheriffs offices and Border Patrol agents. Troopers also seized more than five tons of methamphetamine and over $17 million in cash in nine months last year, and enough fentanyl to kill over 260 million people, he said.
“Every one of these statistics would have been in St. Louis, Chicago, or somewhere else without [criminal illegal aliens] ever being vetted,” Scott said. What that means, he says, is that Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials may release people into the U.S. “but at least we know who they are.”
At a Texas Public Policy Foundation forum Wednesday, Scott weighed in on the effectiveness of Operation Lone Star, saying that Texas was defending the U.S. in response to an increased crime wave as a result of the Biden administration’s open border policies.
In his 30-year career with Border Patrol, before becoming chief, Scott served as chief patrol agent of the El Centro Sector in California, assistant chief of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Anti-Terrorism, and director of the Incident Management and Operations Coordination Division at CBP Headquarters in Washington, D.C.
He emphasized that what’s going on at the border isn’t about immigration, but about public safety.
“Just think about your home for a minute, because border security is exactly the same as your home,” he told a packed audience in Austin. “We expect people to go to the front door, announce themselves, we decide who enters. If they come in any other way, there’s a response, and in Texas it’s a little more aggressive than in other states,” he said, referring to Texans who own guns and know how to use them for self-defense.
In addition to manning the border and interdicting criminals, another job of the CBP is to track down those who come into the country, he said.
“We need to know who is here,” Scott said. Texas DPS and the Texas National Guard have been “stepping up into the gap that the Biden administration created,” he said, which “enables us to at least know who” those coming in illegally are, because Border Patrol agents process them.
“They’re being finger printed and photographed. If they’re criminals, Texas can step in and take action,” Scott said. “If they’re on the terrorist watch list, the FBI’s going to respond and take action. If there’s any action that can be taken legally, it’s going to be taken.
“This is a huge responsibility and it’s very expensive and Texas has really taken a huge hit,” he added. “Even public safety in other areas because DPS troopers are pulled from other areas of the state to go to the border.”
The Texas Legislature has allocated $3 billion from the state general fund toward border security efforts. The state is also building a border wall, the first time it’s ever done so in Texas history. Abbott said the $3 billion is money that could be used for something else in Texas. But the state is spending it on border security even though it shouldn’t have to because keeping Texans and Americans in other states safe is a priority.
“Were it not for Operation Lone Star, the people DPS is catching would be gottaways,” those who evade law enforcement as they make their way north, Scott said.
“They would be people wandering around with whatever’s in their backpack,” he said. “Without DPS, there’d be a gap in border security with the cartels driving trucks with who knows what through. So it’s not just the statistics but DPS is really providing for the whole country a level of safety and security that the federal government cannot do right now.”
He also said that Border Patrol agents want to do their jobs but are being held back by the administration, tasked with processing large groups of illegal immigrants instead of being able to patrol the border in the field, interdicting cartel and criminal activity.
“During the Del Rio fiasco with the Haitians under the bridge there was 130 miles of border without a single border patrol agent on it for well over a week. What came through that gap?” he asked. “If Texas DPS wasn’t there, we’d never know.”
Additionally, DPS’ presence at the border, he said, provides a visual of an “iron curtain,” a message the world needed to hear and see, he said. Because “the world got an invitation to come to the United States on January 20 last year, and they came in record numbers.” Texas DPS holding the line was just as important a message that the world needed to hear, he added.
“Operation Lone Star is making a huge impact to keep this country safe in a way the federal government has chosen not to,” he said.
The operation involves state troopers working with the Texas National Guard to deploy air, ground, marine and tactical border security assets to high threat areas to prevent and or mitigate Mexican cartels’ human and drug smuggling operations in Texas.
“Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans,” Abbott said when he launched the operation. “We will surge the resources and law enforcement personnel needed to confront this crisis.”