(The Center Square) – After signing six border bills into law on Thursday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new tactic Operation Lone Star officers were deploying on the Rio Grande River: a 1,000 mile floating barrier to block illegal entry.
“What we are doing now is securing the border at the border,” Abbott said, but officials wanted to prevent illegal foreign nationals from “getting to the border” between ports of entry. The new marine barriers are being deployed immediately, he said.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said “no one needs to come through illegally between the ports of entry. It’s dangerous.” Those who do “are risking themselves and putting themselves in harm’s way,” he said. “The only one it enriches is the Mexican cartels.”
The new marine barrier can be quickly deployed and moved at any time, he said. The idea was created by Border Patrol, which had already designed and tested it, he said. The Texas Military Department and Department of Public Safety also looked at risk mitigation to ensure people wouldn’t get hurt or drown. He said it was a “proactive way” to prevent illegal entry.
The first section of the marine barrier is being deployed in Eagle Pass, Texas, in Maverick County where cartel smuggling is rampant.
“We don’t want people to come across who put themselves at risk,” McCraw said.
Adjutant General of Texas Major General Thomas Suelzer said, “Texas is no longer ground zero for this crisis. Texas is a stronghold as exemplified by 11 states so far sending national guard to Texas to secure border.”
Texas purchased the buoys from Cochrane USA, which specializes in creating marine barriers. The 1,000 mile barrier is comprised of large, round, red rotating buoys that are held together with thick steel cables. They are being laid out on the water along a heavily trafficked area of the Rio Grande River between Piedras Negras, Mexico, and Eagle Pass, Texas.
What law enforcement officials have found, and told The Center Square, is that foreign nationals who are encouraged to use the Department of Homeland Security’s CBP One App to apply for entry to the U.S., are frustrated by the length of time it takes to get an appointment. When they see that people ahead of them are just being released into the U.S. anyway, instead of waiting in line, they cross the river in whatever way they can, using flotation devices, rope or swimming.
Many are smuggled across by coyotes, cartel guides, through a marshy area of the river.
There are also islands in the middle of the river and law enforcement officials have observed people setting up tents and staying on the islands in limbo between Texas and Mexico.
Because of the vegetation, river flow and topography in this area, boats that might be used for interdiction along other parts of the river can’t be used in the Eagle Pass area. Because the buoys rotate, it makes it harder for people to climb over them or swim under them while blocking any attempt to cross the river.
In addition to the buoys, National Guardsmen from Florida and Tennessee are in the Eagle Pass area. Florida and Texas engineers have laid a quarter mile of triple strand concertina wire every day in the Eagle Pass area of operation, the TXMD said in an announcement.
As a result of their efforts, “the number of illegal immigrants attempting to come across has dropped drastically,” TXMD said. “The efforts of the Guardsmen standing the line, engineers clearing the land and laying down c-wire and the additional troopers from law enforcement partners from the Department of Public Safety have made an impact.
“The additional eyes and ears of Tennessee and Florida Guardsmen have helped make a difference already in detection and deterrence.”
Florida National Guard engineer, Staff Sgt. Miguel Cabrera, said what they are working on “lets us do what we are called for as National Guardsmen, helping our state of Florida but also helping Texas. The experience here on the ground is helping our Soldiers with their careers. The gained experience of doing engineer work improves their engineering skills and doing a mission like this helps their Soldiering and leadership skills.”
Texas National Guard First Lt. Chris Daniel with the 176th Engineer Brigade said his teams made a huge impact in Brownsville, and they are replicating that effort in Eagle Pass. “The last 45 days have been very aggressive,” he said. His teams in Brownsville saw a lot of traffic. “I witnessed first-hand with my team upwards of 1,000 crossings a day trickle down to a handful a day.” He said it was the combination of the wire and DPS troopers providing additional support that stemmed the flow.
Soldiers from the Texas National guard have patrolled and fortified the Texas-Mexico border on Operation Lone Star for over two years, decreasing the amount of illegal border crossings substantially as a result. Soldiers apart of the 176th Engineer Brigade work to secure the border with layers of concertina wire, making it nearly impossible to enter the state of Texas without crossing through the designated points of entry. (Texas National Guard video product by Joint Task Force Lone Star Public Affairs)
By adding layers of concertina wire along the riverbank, TXMD argues, it’s “nearly impossible to enter the state of Texas without crossing through the designated points of entry.”