Smugglers embedding criminals with families to cross border, Texas troopers say

The Washington Examiner:

Human traffickers are sneaking hardened criminals across the U.S.-Mexico border by embedding them with families, according to Texas troopers.

A Texas Department of Public Safety officer deployed to the border recently pulled over an adult man and a 14-year-old girl in Starr County and discovered the man was a fugitive wanted by law enforcement for sexual assault. Both had just come over the border illegally. The girl was not related to him, and it’s likely they were paired up to cross the border together.

“That kind of thing is being ignored right now by the media. They’re focused on families and children, but there’s more to it,” the DPS spokesman told the Washington Examiner.

The arrest comes two weeks after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the state’s DPS officers, known as “troopers,” to help U.S. Border Patrol agents on the southern border as part of the state’s Operation Lone Star. The department has 600 troopers and investigators in its southern region, approximately 100 of whom have been shifted to focus on criminal activities at the border. They have brought in boats, helicopters, and vehicles to patrol rivers and land.

GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT: “The Biden Administration has created a crisis at our southern border through open border policies that give the green light to dangerous cartels and other criminal activity,” Abbott said in a statement. “Border security is the federal government’s responsibility, but the State of Texas will not allow the administration’s failures to endanger the lives of innocent Texans. Instead, Texas is stepping up to fill the gaps left open by the federal government to secure the border, apprehend dangerous criminals, and keep Texans safe.”

In February, the Border Patrol encountered nearly 100,000 people who illegally attempted to cross into the United States from Mexico, including nearly 10,000 children without parents and 20,000families. The concern for federal and state authorities is that the same smugglers pushing people across are using single children as props for adults because it may increase their chances of being released into the U.S. rather than being returned to Mexico. Sixty percent of families encountered last month were not returned to Mexico.

DPS personnel are honing [sic] in on Starr and Hidalgo counties, and as far up to Maverick County, because these South and Central Texas regions of the border are where federal border authorities are seeing the most criminal activity, including the smuggling of drugs, firearms, and criminals.

“We saturate that area with a high, visible presence in order to deter or prevent any of that activity from coming over,” the DPS official said.

When they do see suspicious activity, they investigate and respond. They have seen a high amount of activity in a couple weeks and are finding adults with criminal records mixed in with family groups or posing as parents. Abbott said 800 people encountered at the border in Texas this year had criminal records, though DPS did not reveal how many it has seen in the first two weeks of its deployment.

“Because Border Patrol is being overwhelmed, they’re busy with the family units coming across, so what happens is we have the criminal organizations from Mexico, the cartel, too, they see an opportunity to exploit that,” the spokesman said. “They’re able to move these adults into the U.S. We’re able to fill these gaps and reduce the gaps and be in the roadway and in the communities.”

Already, DPS is shifting resources to where the illegal traffic shifts westward toward Del Rio.

DPS was also deployed to the international boundary in 2014, when the highest number of children unaccompanied by parents at the time began arriving at the southern border, as well as during the 2019 humanitarian crisis when more than half a million children and people traveling with family members were taken into custody.

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