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Operation Lone Star officers modify tactics as border surge continues

More than 700,000 people who illegally crossed the border without being apprehended this fiscal year are referred to as gotaways.

Published: November 6, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

Texas National Guard soldiers and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers are modifying their tactics as they continue to hold the line at the Mexico border, including reinforcing border barriers and blocking people who are continuing to attempt to illegally enter the country.

Over the past month, National Guard soldiers have adapted the response procedures they use in certain sections along the Rio Grande River where large groups of foreign nationals attempt to breach or destroy concertina wire. In some cases, soldiers have been using riot shields and forming a wall to block high traffic crossing areas.

“We stand at the concertina wire and deter them,” Spc. Celso Eunzalan with Lima Company in Task Force Eagle, said. The company is operating in Eagle Pass, Texas, which has had among the highest numbers of illegal entry in the state over the last few months and fiscal year.

“So far, we have deterred them from crossing onto our soil, about 25 meters from here. We have some riot shields, and we were able to deter,” Eunzalan said.

Gov. Greg Abbott has surged resources to the area after city officials declared a state of emergency in September. Texas also sued the Biden administration after it ordered federal agents to tear out the concertina wire in some areas using bulldozers. Texas won its first round in the lawsuit that’s expected to be heard at the U.S. Supreme Court.

Texas National Guard soldiers assigned to brush teams working through Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, continue to interdict illegal border crossers and coyotes bringing them across. They also continue to find caches of tools and equipment used to destroy the concertina wire and break through other barriers.

More than 700,000 people who illegally crossed the border without being apprehended this fiscal year are referred to as gotaways. They often run when pursued by law enforcement because they don’t want to be caught, officials have explained.

Roughly 1.7 million gotaways have been known and reported since President Joe Biden first took office, but the number is estimated to be closer to at least 2 million, The Center Square previously reported.

Soldiers are also playing a role assisting local law enforcement who pursue illegal border crossers often involved in human smuggling.

"I believe we're making a profound difference in working with our law enforcement partners, but then also helping them take criminals off our streets that could pose a threat to the local population," Alpha Company Task Force East 1st Lt. Stephen Landrum said in a video posted by the Texas Military Department.

"Law enforcement partners do a great job, but they're also spread very thin and I believe our presence here helps them out a lot. It gives them manpower and resources that they wouldn't otherwise have."

Those who do get through have plans to meet their smugglers on the other side of the river in Texas border counties, law enforcement officials say. This is where some Texas DPS troopers come in – prepared to identify, pursue, and arrest the smugglers as they make their way north.

On Oct. 28, for example, during a traffic stop of a driver of a Honda SUV in Val Vere County, a DPS trooper discovered an attempted smuggling event of six illegal foreign nationals into the U.S. from Mexico. The driver was also a Mexican national in the U.S. illegally. The trooper found, as law enforcement officers often find when they approach vehicles in border counties, people hiding in the back. The trooper first noticed a woman hiding, and then another five hiding. The driver was charged with smuggling of persons. All six foreign nationals were referred to Border Patrol.

On Halloween, officers pursued a human smuggler in a high-speed chase who was transporting five Mexican nationals who’d illegally entered Texas. The driver, Eduardo Garcia from Laredo, led troopers on a high-speed pursuit reaching speeds of 100 mph along U.S. 83 in Webb County. Not able to lose their tail, he eventually drove toward the Rio Grande River and they all bailed out.

He, and the five Mexicans, then attempted to swim across to Mexico. But with assistance from Border Patrol agents, they were all caught. Border Patrol agents apprehended the Mexican nationals; DPS arrested Garcia and charged him with evading arrest and five counts of smuggling of persons.

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