Border blink? Abbott says Texas-bound caravans appear to disband, but surge still expected

"Even if they are breaking up doesn’t mean they won’t be coming," governor warns,
 Texas Governor Greg Abbott and former President Donald J. Trump attend a security briefing with state officials and law enforcement at the Weslaco Department of Public Safety

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said Friday after a briefing with law enforcement that it appears that a caravan or caravans of people coming from southern Mexico appear to be breaking up.

After his briefing in Weslaco, Texas, with law enforcement officials leading Operation Lone Star border security efforts, he said they informed him that “some evidence make it seem as if caravans are disbanding to some extent.” They could be disbanding for several reasons, from lack of resources, to weather or to his agreements with several Mexican governors, he said.

A month ago, members of the Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas National Guard began “preparing for something we shouldn’t have to prepare for,” he said, referring to the caravans.

“But even if they are breaking up doesn’t mean they won’t be coming,” he added. People attempting to enter the U.S. illegally may not be coming in one large group.

State police in Mexico are acting as deterrents, controlling checkpoints and mirroring activity of Texas law enforcement, he said, which is slowing cartel activity.

The National Guard and DPS are working to block as many low water crossings as possible and preparing mass migration rehearsals at bridges or other crossing areas. Three key areas of operations are ongoing, Texas National Guard Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Burkett said, in the Mission/McAllen area, Eagle Pass and Del Rio regions.

“The National Guard practices mass-migration responses both with and without DPS and law enforcement to demonstrate we have those capabilities at any time, day or night,” Burkett said. “Engineers are also responsible for establishing additional barriers to deter illegal migrant events. Nearly 40 miles of standard fencing have been erected, as well as 18 miles of concertina wire along the border.”

National Guardsmen and women have also documented 20,000 turn backs – those who attempt to cross into the U.S. but turn around and go back to Mexico, he said.

“2021 was a record breaking year in many ways and none of them good,” Lt. Col. Freeman Martin, deputy director/lt. colonel of Homeland Security Operations at DPS said. “We saw 1.3 million apprehensions in Texas, the highest ever. We had a 1268% increase in fentanyl seizures,” he said, clarifying “these are state seizures, not federal.”

This year, he said that from January-May compared to January-May last year, there’s been an additional 58% increase in fentanyl seizures.

In the past year, law enforcement officers working in Operation Lone Star and DPS statewide “have seized almost enough fentanyl to kill every single man, woman and child in the entire United States of America,” Abbott said. “The reason why that must be underscored is because that is fentanyl that got past Border Patrol. If it were not for Operation Lone Star, the Department of Public Safety and Texas law enforcement, that would be fentanyl on the streets in the United States killing Americans.”

Hidalgo County and the Rio Grande Valley, in general, has always been the most impacted by illegal immigration, Martin said. But one thing that’s made a difference in their law enforcement efforts is cooperation and collaboration with four Mexican governors. “We’ve never had that before,” he said.

In response to a reporter asking about the Department of Homeland Security transporting illegal immigrants to other major cities throughout the country, Abbott said, “what DHS needs to do is their job. Their job is to enforce the law specified by the U.S. Congress. That would mean to stop the illegal immigration from occurring in the first place. It would mean not tying the hands of ICE, not tying the hands of the Border Patrol officers, but rather unleashing them to do their job.”

Abbott also said it was “reprehensible” that 50 people on the terrorist watch list have been apprehended after having entered the U.S. illegally through the southern border in the last fiscal year. “That’s one of the most reprehensible things the Biden administration is doing,” Abbott said. That number only relates to those who have been apprehended, he added; there’s an unknown number on the watch list who got away. “There’s a high probability that there are a lot of people on the terrorist watch list who’ve come into the United States,” he said.

“This is the president’s job, national security. Our national security is at risk because of all of the people on the terrorist watch list who may have come across the border. The president of the United States is failing in his most fundamental duty and that is to keep our nation safe.”