MISSION, Texas (KVEO) – Texas DPS Troopers these days not only take care of the Texas freeways, but also the Texas-Mexico border.
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Operation Lone Star, a border initiative by Texas Governor Greg Abbott, is enforced across the South Texas border in Mexico by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
The operation currently has 1,000 Texas DPS soldiers on the Texas-Mexico border working to combat human trafficking related to illegal border crossings.
KVEO was given access to Texas DPS to see how the agency enforces the initiative from all angles, on the streets, in the river, and even in the sky.
“Our soldiers work on border operations day in and day out,” said Texas DPS soldier Lt. Christopher Olivarez. “They share information with other authorities about what is happening along the river, and then our boats leave to intercept whether it is migrants or drugs.”
The mission goes beyond day-to-day operations and is now an essential collaborative effort towards a common goal to stop illegal activity at the border.
Soldiers help conduct interviews with unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border to identify victims of human trafficking and obtain actionable information to help arrest human traffickers.
“It’s very effective because when Border Patrol isn’t out there, we have our boats there, so they work together,” said Lt. Olivarez.
Often soldiers work 10 to 14 hours per shift, sometimes up to 15 days in a row.
Patrolling the streets is just one way soldiers help.
24 hours a day, the Texas DPS joins the Air and Navy Unit for Customs and Border Protection in the Sky, observing the border from all angles.
The Texas National Guard also holds an air watch.
KVEO asked a Texas DPS pilot, on average, how often soldiers see people crossing in a shift.
“Every day is different, we can see two to 200,” he said.
Data shows Operation Lone Star’s efforts are currently working.
“Right now we have 631 fears, we have contacted 24,000 remittances from migrants. These are migrants that we encounter along the river or who are smuggled into vehicles and then we refer them to Border Patrol,” said Lt. Olivarez.
As soon as migrants are caught by Texas DPS, the US Border Patrol picks them up.
A major priority for Texas DPS is stopping smuggling before it starts.
Now you can see it virtually.
“We see people using TikTok, Snapchat, and other social media sites to advertise drivers coming to RGV to smuggle,” said Olivarez. “We now see people from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston who come here just for this purpose because they are being tricked into coming here and making some money on social media.”
More than ever, soldiers are saying they see minors getting involved.
“The smuggling organizations use youngsters because they know the chances that they will be prosecuted are very small and they know that they will be smuggling, caught, released and do it again,” said Olivarez.
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There are currently no plans to slow down as Governor Abbott has not given an end date for Operation Lone Star.
“Operation Lone Star is delivering results to protect our communities, but it also shows the Biden administration’s persistent failure to secure the border,” said Governor Abbott. “I would like to thank the men and women of the Texas Department of Public Security, the National Guard and the US Border Patrol for putting their lives on the line every day to secure the border, arrest dangerous criminals and victims of human trafficking protect and smuggling. It is time for the federal government to strengthen and secure the border, and I urge the Biden government to take action now to save lives and get this crisis under control. ”
Since Operation Lone Star started on March 4, DPS has made 598 criminal arrests and referred over 16,000 illegal immigrants to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
This equated to an average of 21 criminal arrests per day and more than 571 referrals per day to Border Patrol.
The operation also resulted in the seizure of 14 pounds of cocaine, 23 firearms and millions of dollars in currency, as well as the arrest of nine gang members who were involved in the movement of this contraband.
Most recently, Operation Lone Star soldiers captured a top 10 Texas refugee, Eric Munoz, a confirmed member of the Valluco gang, who was wanted for parole violation.
Munoz has a long list of charges including aggravated assault with a lethal weapon, aggravated sexual assault, assault, avoidance of arrest, DWI, theft, criminal offense, possession of a controlled substance, and more.
Less than a week ago, Texas DPS soldiers working on Operation Lone Star in Rio Grande City were shot at by a Mexican mafia gang member.
Arrested after an extensive search, Mauricio Isaias Medina now faces three charges of capital murder with attempted criminal activity and one charge of aggravated assault with a lethal weapon.
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The soldier was not hit by Medina’s shots.