MISSION, Texas — The two Texas state troopers I was with took off running down the levee road we had been walking on, straining to see in the early morning darkness three illegal immigrants Border Patrol had spotted crossing the Rio Grande. The running started when two figures ahead of us could be seen sprinting over the levee trying to disappear into the brush.
As we got closer, a Border Patrol SUV moved to intercept one of the men who managed to make it down into the brush, while the other one gave up because he was tired and dehydrated. While Border Patrol agents rushed to track down the other man, Texas state troopers took the second man into custody and started the walk back to where we started. Talking with the illegal immigrant, we found out he was from Ecuador. He told us he was paying smugglers $30,000 to try to sneak into the United States. That shocked the three of us given those high prices are usually reserved for foreign nationals who come from countries like China, not Latin America, but it is known the prices to pay the different Mexican cartels increase the further away someone is from the U.S. southern border.
Before long, two Border Patrol agents came back with another man from the trio to start processing them. Over the radio, the last man was spotted going up a tree in an attempt to lose the agents chasing after him. Because the Texas troopers are only able to assist in apprehending, we left the Border Patrol agents to do their job of processing them.
Townhall Media/Julio Rosas
While the Texas Department of Public Safety has deployed thousands of state troopers, assisted by Texas National Guardsmen, they can't be everywhere at once during the typical times smugglers and illegal immigrants try to slip past them after crossing the river. Not only does law enforcement have to stage themselves in areas common to see illegal activity, they also have to be on the lookout for cartel scouts who work on the Texas side. This was exemplified when the SUV we were using was parked near a road that came out from the Rio Grande's banks. A sensor had been tripped and the troopers were on the lookout for two vehicles that contained illegal immigrants. As we waited, one SUV slowly rolled past us in the front, while a pickup truck rolled past us from behind. We had been made.
Our driver had to reposition our SUV to lose the scouts, but the damage was done. The cars used a different exit further to the west of us and were able to get away despite the police's best attempt to catch up. The cars melted away into neighborhoods. While such cat-and-mouse games between police and smugglers were not uncommon before the Biden administration, all of what has been happening is now behind the backdrop of historic levels of illegal immigration.
Townhall Media/Julio Rosas
Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz testified during a House Homeland Security Committee hearing the day before in nearby Pharr that there have already been approximately 385,000 known "gotaways" at the border since fiscal year 2023, which started in October 2022. There were approximately 600,000 known "gotaways" during all of fiscal year 2022. The illegal immigrants we were unable to intercept are considered to be "gotaways" unless they are caught further within the country.
"With the increased number of 'gotaways,' Texas DPS has maintained a proactive posture and bolstered security efforts in apprehending illegal immigrants who would otherwise go undetected and make it further into the interior of the United States. Through Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, DPS has encountered over 350,000 illegal immigrants and has made over 6,200 arrests for criminal trespass involving illegal immigrants who trespass on private ranches to circumvent checkpoints," DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez explained.
"Troopers working alongside U.S. Border Patrol have made numerous arrests involving brush guides who actively smuggle illegal immigrants across the Rio Grande River from Mexico into the country. This unprecedented enforcement effort sends a clear message to criminal smuggling organizations that DPS will arrest and prosecute those who violate state law and endanger the lives of those they smuggle," he added.
The Biden administration has claimed progress at the southern border since encounters have dropped with the rollout of the CBP One app, which allows certain nationalities to make an appointment to legally enter the U.S. to claim asylum, but encounters, over 100,000, is still historically high. Migrants in Mexico have become frustrated with the app because spots fill up quickly, which is why that was a contributing factor for the recent attempt by around 1,000 people to storm into the U.S. through a port of entry in El Paso, Texas.
Notably, Ortiz also stated the U.S. does not have operational control of the southern border, despite Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas testifying to Congress last year that the U.S. did have operational control. Democrats on the committee did not attend the official hearing even though a few did initially plan on going. They claimed they were not seriously planning on attending but sources say Democrats went as far as to book flights and hotels for the hearing.
"It's disheartening that the Democrat representatives did not attend the hearing. It is a very serious issue that requires a bipartisan solution. Their absence gives the appearance that they do not understand the urgency of the issue at hand," National Border Patrol Council Vice President Chris Cabrera told Townhall.