WESLACO, Texas (KVEO) — Governor Greg Abbott held a press conference in the Rio Grande Valley with several law enforcement officials on Thursday morning to speak about Operation Lone Star.
During his visit, Abbott discussed the progress of Operation Lone Star during its first month of action as Texas officials look to mitigate drug smuggling and human trafficking across the southwest border.
Abbott revealed that the program has resulted in numerous arrests of smugglers along the border and in communities well within Texas.
“In 28 days [under Operation Lone Star], Texas DPS has made 578 criminal arrests,” said Abbott. “They’ve also made 16,000 referrals of illegal immigrants to border patrol.”
Abbott stated that Texas is increasing patrol along the border because “the federal government is failing to respond to these dangers.”
He condemned the Biden administration for creating an “open season” for drug smugglers from what he claims are Biden’s “open door” policies.
Abbott cited specific examples across Texas of smugglers being caught trafficking people.
He then switched focus to smugglers who harm children and gave more examples of migrant children that were found to have been sexually assaulted in the custody of smugglers.
Abbott described how situations such as the six-month-old baby being thrown into the Rio Grande averts law enforcement attention away from smuggling activity to focus on saving the child.
The governor noted that smugglers are now attempting to recruit people to join their industry in Texas, something he says they have never witnessed. He presented ads that smugglers post on TikTok to recruit people to join.
Colonel Steve McCraw, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director, also spoke at the press conference and gave a quick insight into what dangers these smugglers present for the children they are smuggling.
“[Smugglers] will stash, they will starve, they will beat, they will rape, and they will abandon these children,” said McCraw.
McCraw states that the smugglers do not see people as anything more than a commodity for their “billion-dollar a year industry.”
“They’re enemy number one,” said McCraw in reference to cartel member smugglers due to their drug smuggling and human trafficking.
Brandon Judd, National Border Patrol Council (NBPC) president, additionally condemned the Biden administration for repealing the Migrant Protection Protocol (MPP) program without another solution to implement.
“You cannot get rid of a program that worked and was very effective and not replace it with something else and that’s in fact what the Biden administration did,” said Judd.
Judd stated that there is a solution that can help those seeking asylum in a quicker way.
“There are solutions that can be had. If we were to set up courts to adjudicate these cases then we would give relief to those who deserve relief,” said Judd. “We would also send back those individuals who are coming here to gain the system.”
Gov. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star at the beginning of the month, in an effort to stop Mexican cartels from smuggling drugs and people into Texas by surging state police and National Guard forces to the border.
The decision comes after a February meeting with Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety Colonel Steve McCraw about security at the border and what a release said were COVID-19 health concerns.
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Abbott and McCraw discussed “a recent surge of immigrants at Texas’ southern border and noted that this influx is related to the Biden Administration’s reinstatement of the ‘catch and release’ policy.”
U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials told McAllen mayor Jim Darling last month that family units — undocumented migrants traveling with children who cross into South Texas — were now being paroled into the United States as they awaited their asylum proceedings.
This is what occurred during previous border security apprehensions known as “catch and release,” when migrants were allowed to remain in the United States during their immigration proceedings however many years that may take.
The launched operation will include Texas DPS with the Texas National Guard and will deploy air, ground, marine and tactical border security assets.
Watch the press conference below: