Texas law enforcement officers thwart human smuggling, arrest convicted criminals near border
Since Operation Lone Star was started, Texas officers have apprehended more than 308,700 illegal foreign nationals and made more than 20,200 criminal arrests.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
Texas law enforcement officers working through Operation Lone Star continue to thwart criminal activity at the Texas-Mexico border, including interdicting human smugglers and kidnappers.
Since Gov. Greg Abbott launched Texas’ border security initiative last March, state law enforcement officers have apprehended more than 308,700 illegal foreign nationals, made more than 20,200 criminal arrests, including more than 17,900 on felony charges.
Most recently, DPS state troopers arrested a Mexican national in Mission, Texas, after he attempted to take a Texas National Guard soldier’s weapon. After arresting the 45-year-old Mexican national, Ricardo Jaime-Ruiz, DPS learned he is a previously deported felon.
Ruiz allegedly committed the crime while a National Guard soldier was assisting Border Patrol agents apprehend a large group of people who’d illegally entered the U.S. near Bentsen Palm Community Park in Mission, Texas. Ruiz fled, attempting to evade capture. The soldier issued verbal commands to stop but instead Ruiz grabbed the soldier's M-4 rifle with both hands. He tried to take the gun away but was stopped by other soldiers.
On Sept. 24 in Weslaco at the Mid Valley Airport, DPS Special Agents noticed several vehicles arrive and drop off seven people who boarded a Raytheron plane. The officers apprehended them and discovered that one was a U.S. citizen who coordinated the smuggling operation; six were foreign nationals illegally being brought to Houston.
Among them were four men and two women who were citizens of El Salvador and Mexico who had fraudulent Texas identification cards. One of the men was a previously deported felon wanted in Wisconsin for sexual assault of a child.
DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez told Fox News, “We’re starting to see an increase in planes that are being used to smuggle illegal immigrants further into the State of Texas, and then from there they make it further into the interior. There is no way of knowing who these individuals are unless you actually catch them in the act and apprehend and vet them. That’s how we were able to identify that one individual with a warrant for sexual assault.”
In Hidalgo County near La Joya, Texas National Guard soldiers assisted Border Patrol agents with apprehending five criminals who attempted to evade capture after illegally crossing the Rio Grande River. According to soldiers patrolling the area, there’s been a notable rise in the number of illegal crossings and subsequent apprehensions over the past week. Soldiers are also noticing increased numbers of criminals fleeing apprehension.
“We have had a total of 109 people we have detained, and over half have been criminal apprehensions,” Staff Sgt. Juan Aldana, Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 141st Infantry, said, according to a release from the governor’s office. He described a typical night on shift, saying, “We got a call from a Border Patrol agent who was trying to apprehend a combative criminal. We rushed over there and surrounded him and were able to safely detain him.”
Farther west in Webb County in Laredo, DPS agents discovered 50 illegal foreign nationals hiding in an 18-wheeler, including 37 men, 11 women and two juveniles. A U.S. citizen and Mexican national were arrested for smuggling of people, the rest were referred to Border Patrol.
DPS special agents also recently found 43 people in a stash house in Webb County, including 24 men, 17 women, and two juveniles. All were citizens of Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras who’d illegally entered the U.S. and were referred to Border Patrol.
DPS says it’s observing a trend of rental homes being used as stash houses to hide smuggled people, drugs and weapons. DPS is advising landlords to look for red flags like tenants paying in cash and offering multiple payments in advance.
“For the most part, what we found in these specific cases is the landlords are not directly involved," DPS Sgt. Erick Estrada told KGNS News Laredo. "It’s directly with the tenant, with whoever is renting the property. People should be aware of who they are renting their property out to."
Farther west in Kinney County, DPS troopers interdicted another smuggling event after they discovered 10 people, including a child, hidden inside a Penske van. The driver was charged with human smuggling and all 10 illegal foreign nationals were referred to Border Patrol.
In neighboring Del Rio, DPS troopers found 11 illegal foreign nationals concealed inside a box truck during a traffic stop. In another traffic stop, officers pulled over a driver from California who was attempting to smuggle 10 people into the U.S. The drivers were charged with smuggling of persons; everyone else was referred to Border Patrol.
Farther west in El Paso, DPS troopers discovered a kidnapped 18-month-old baby during a traffic stop. The baby was in poor health and taken to the hospital for treatment before being released to Child Protective Services. Both the driver and teenage passenger face charges of smuggling of persons and aggravated kidnapping.
“Operation Lone Star continues to fill the dangerous gaps left by the Biden Administration's refusal to secure the border,” Abbott argues. In a recent Washington Times oped, he wrote, “Whether President Biden views the border crisis as Texas’ problem or it is just politically inconvenient for him to do his job, mass illegal immigration is a humanitarian crisis for those putting their lives in the hands of ruthless coyotes or smugglers and a national security crisis for all Americans.
“The crisis at the border is not for Texas or any other border state to handle alone. It is up to our nation’s leaders to stand up for the rule of law that makes America so exceptional.”