Congress members visit the border, look into disagreements between state and local agencies

Reports indicate that Texas state troopers and U.S. Border Patrol are not working well together.

By Sarah AschAugust 9, 2023 11:22 am, ,

This summer has seen an ongoing push and pull between Gov. Greg Abbott and federal authorities over addressing migration at Texas’ southern border.

At issue is not just the buoy barrier the governor recently ordered installed in the Rio Grande, but also how Texas law enforcement is interacting with Border Patrol agents. There have been weeks of documented conflict between the two agencies.

A small group of Congress members traveled to take a look at the situation themselves, and Texas state troopers told them on Tuesday that reports of troopers interfering with Border Patrol have been overblown.

Jeremy Wallace, who covers politics for the Houston Chronicle and also made the trip down to Eagle Pass, said part of the purpose of the congressional trip was to investigate claims that state and federal agents are not working well together.

“There have been cases in which Border Patrol officials have had memos that suggest that DPS is getting in the way of their getting to migrants and getting to the river. DPS insisted to [the elected officials] that this is not happening at this point,” Wallace said. “But there’s certainly still evidence that there’s trouble happening there. There are still sections in which Border Patrol is not able to get through razor wire to get to the water. And DPS officials are telling us, ‘well, you know, we’re okay if they cut through the wire to get to the migrants.’”

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Wallace said the DPS presence at the border has increased over the last two years as part of Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, in addition to an increased presence of state and national guard to the area.

“In addition, other states have been sending National Guard and their state troopers to assist as part of the whole effort. And so you have a lot more people down there interacting,” he said. “And then Abbott, most recently this summer, has really added a lot of razor wire along the banks of the river. They’ve cleared a lot of the vegetation on the Texas side of the river. One of the homeowners I was talking to down there says it looks like a complete war zone. DPS defends Operation Lone Star — officials say, ‘look, what we’re doing here is we’re trying to make sure migrants know that they shouldn’t be crossing here and they should be going to ports of entry instead.’”

The buoy barrier is also at the center of a federal lawsuit against the State of Texas.

“The Department of Justice is saying, ‘look, you violated a federal law that requires permission from the Army Corps of Engineers before you put anything in the water,’” Wallace said. “So they’re suing Governor Abbott over that thousand-foot barrier, saying that he needs to take that out of there.”

Although DPS officials say the buoys are an effective deterrent, Wallace said that is not as clear from the ground.

“What we witnessed was that people were just walking around them and walking down the river. And so it’s just adding a few more miles for people walking down the river,” he said. “We watched the migrants just having to bypass them.”

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There has also been friction between state troopers and the city of Eagle Pass, Wallace said.

“One of the things that Operation Lone Star has done is they commandeered the city park, Shelby Park in Eagle Pass,” he said. “They took control of that whole area where they wouldn’t let citizens in there. Certainly journalists weren’t allowed. I talked to one resident who said they tried to go to the park and DPS was just harassing them the whole time to get out.”

Wallace said Eagle Pass recently rescinded its agreement with DPS to take over the park, but the agency’s presence is still felt by locals as well as migrants.

“Now the public is being allowed back into that public area. But there’s plenty of law enforcement presence there. There’s still these shipping containers they’ve stacked along the park with razor wire on top of it to try to dissuade migrants,” he said. “In the municipal golf course, shooting into a barrier with razor wire probably isn’t the golf hazard most people are used to.”

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