EDINBURG, Texas (Border Report) — Texas has created what Gov. Greg Abbott is touting as “a steel wall along the southern border” using shipping containers placed along the Rio Grande in South Texas to keep out migrants and caravans from Mexico.
“Large shipping containers, resources & personnel are being used to protect communities & property owners,” Abbott tweeted this week. “Texas is securing the border.”
A row of about 20 giant containers has been placed on the riverbanks in the border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. Armored vehicles appear to be interspersed with the containers, as seen in the video Abbott posted Wednesday on social media.
Behind the row of containers is a row of Texas Department of Public Safety state troopers and vehicles as a second line of defense to stop migrants from illegally crossing the river.
The area is about a 70-minute drive south of the town of Del Rio, Texas, where 15,000 migrants, mostly Haitians, crossed the Rio Grande in September and camped under an international bridge, which caused law enforcement to close the port of entry.
During a media briefing Thursday in Weslaco, Texas, National Guard Public Affairs Officer Maj. Mike Perry said that “Operation Steel Curtain is the ability of DPS and Texas National guard to surge personnel, equipment and capabilities anywhere within the state of Texas to low-water crossings so we can repel and block any large caravans coming across.”
This is part of the larger Operation Lone Star, which Abbott launched in March in response to what he calls a migration “crisis” that the Biden administration has failed to properly address.
“Texas supports legal immigration but will not be an accomplice to the open border policies that cause, rather than prevent, a humanitarian crisis in our state and endanger the lives of Texans,” Abbott said in announcing the operation.
So far, the operation has cost billions of dollars in state funds. And some Democrats now are calling on the Department of Homeland Security to investigate what they call Abbott’s attempt to “establish a separate state immigration policy.”
Perry said that National Guard units and state troopers are working with private ranchers to have access to their property to put up blockades, and other tactical devices.
In addition, Chinook and Black Hawk also are being utilized “as air insertion for deterrence,” he said.
Victor Escalon Jr., regional DPS director for South Texas, said Thursday that over 9,300 criminal arrests have been made and over 163,000 migrants have been apprehended along the border from Del Rio to the Rio Grande Valley as part of Operation Lone Star. However, Escalon said the numbers date back to January, even though Operation Lone Star launched in March.
Since late July, migrants who cross the Rio Grande illegally are being charged with criminal trespass in rural Val Verde and Kinney counties, near Del Rio. Escalon said DPS will soon expand to other South Texas counties.
Two special holding facilities have been set up in Edinburg and Dilley, Texas, to house the over 1,000 migrants under these charges, Escalon said.
Arrested migrants are first processed at the Val Verde Processing Center near Del Rio where their biometrics, photos, and fingerprints are taken. They also appear before a magistrate via video conferencing. Then they are bussed to either the Briscoe Unit in Dilley, or the Segovia Unit in Edinburg, where they are being held, he said.
“This takes the place of a county jail. That way we don’t lean on the local county jails and overwhelm them with the amount of people we are arresting because we are arresting 20 to 30 per day,” Escalon said.
Currently, there are 536 migrants being held at the Briscoe Unit, and 535 in Segovia, Texas Department of Criminal Justice Warden Felipe Gonzalez said.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.