Texas faces a showdown over unauthorized border crossings

In the past week, both President Biden and former President Trump made visits to the southern border in Texas. It is evident that immigration has become a crucial and contentious issue in the presidential campaign. The ongoing battle between the state of Texas and the federal government serves as a prime example of this. Three years ago, Texas Governor Greg Abbott initiated “Operation Lone Star,” deploying a significant number of police officers, soldiers, and miles of barriers to deter the growing number of illegal crossings. While the Supreme Court has consistently ruled that immigration falls under the jurisdiction of the federal government, it is rare to witness a state challenging this authority as aggressively as Texas has. In January, Governor Abbott commanded the state National Guard to prevent the federal government’s Border Patrol from accessing Shelby Park, a dusty border stretch along the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas. To grasp the reasons behind this decision, it is crucial to examine the events that occurred there in December.

The soldiers warned them about the potential dangers of crossing at this location.

The people pleaded for assistance, their voices filled with desperation. Tearful women spoke out, highlighting their vulnerability as mothers with young children.

As families maneuvered through the crowd, they reassured each other to remain calm.

Almost everyone we encountered successfully made their way across the border and entered the United States.

In late December, this section of the Texas border saw a record-breaking number of daily crossings, with thousands of people making their way here. The influx was so significant that the U.S. Border Patrol had to convert Shelby Park into an open-air holding center to accommodate the overflow of individuals.

Weeks later, after the surge had subsided, Governor Abbott took action by instructing the Texas National Guard to prevent the Border Patrol from entering the park without prior permission from the federal government. Governor Abbott justified his decision by asserting that the federal government had neglected its responsibilities towards the states. This move sparked reminiscences of Texas’ historical defiance and talk of secession.

Cecilia Vega was taken aback as she posed an unexpected question to the Governor. She couldn’t believe she was about to ask this, but she proceeded anyway. She inquired, “Governor, do you believe that Texas has the right to secede? Is that what we’re discussing here?”

Governor Greg Abbott dismissed the notion of false narratives surrounding Texas and the United States’ right to enforce the law. He firmly stated that both entities have the authority to carry out their legal obligations.

Cecilia Vega raised concerns about the argument against the actions being taken here. The argument suggests that allowing each state to control its own border policy could result in a chaotic system. According to this perspective, it is the responsibility of the federal government to manage border policies.

Governor Greg Abbott emphasized that Texas is not imposing its own border policy but rather enforcing the laws that have been established by the United States Congress.

Cecilia Vega asked what gives the person the authority to tell the U.S. Border Patrol what to do.

As governor of Texas, I have the authority to control the flow of people entering and leaving any land within the state. Additionally, the land we are currently on was previously utilized by the federal government to facilitate illegal activities, and it was my intention to put an end to it.

In January, we had the opportunity to venture beyond the heavily guarded gates of Shelby Park. This was during a time when Governor Abbott had assumed control.

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Texas Department of Public Safety Lt. Christopher Olivarez guided us to the spot where state national guardsmen were actively installing new razor wire barriers along the river.

Cecilia Vega: Can you explain why Texas has an issue with the Border Patrol processing migrants in this park?

Lt. Christopher Olivarez highlights the challenge of preventing another surge of migrants crossing the border. He emphasizes that when Border Patrol establishes a processing center, it inadvertently attracts more migrants, as they become aware of the location to head towards.

Along the Texas border, there are numerous locations where rolls of razor wire have been installed since Governor Abbott initiated Operation Lone Star in 2021. As a result, a significant number of migrants have been apprehended and held on charges of trespassing.

State troopers have taken strong measures to combat human smuggling rings.

Sending migrants on buses to cities like New York and Chicago has become a significant financial and political challenge for Democratic mayors, with the state spending over $150 million.

Shelby Park, once a venue for ballgames and flea markets, has transformed into Governor Abbott’s exemplar for the potential of the Texas border.

According to Governor Greg Abbott, the current situation at the border is a significant improvement compared to before. Previously, there would be around 3,000 to 4,000 individuals crossing the border illegally on a daily basis. However, in the past three days, the average number of illegal border crossings has drastically decreased to just three people. This indicates a highly successful effort in reducing unlawful immigration.

Raul Ortiz believes that planting a flag should not be done without purpose or strategy. It should be a well-thought-out decision that aligns with a larger plan.

Raul Ortiz, who retired last year, has had an extensive career in the U.S. Border Patrol. He served as the chief under President Biden and was also the deputy chief during President Trump’s administration.

Raul Ortiz expressed his concern about the decision-making process of agencies, stating that sometimes decisions are influenced by politics or the desire for media coverage. He highlighted the issue of focusing all personnel in a two-mile stretch while neglecting the remaining 200 miles.

During our interview, Ortiz voiced his criticism towards Governor Abbott for his lack of cooperation with the Border Patrol and accused him of playing politics with immigration. However, he also expressed his frustration with President Biden’s handling of the situation.

Raul Ortiz, the former chief of the border patrol, revealed that he never had the opportunity to have a conversation with the president or even the vice president. Despite leading a team of 21,000 individuals, he expressed his concern over this lack of communication.

Cecilia Vega recently observed a group of 50 individuals who had just crossed the border illegally, leading her to question the effectiveness of current border control measures.

Raul Ortiz emphasized the need to ensure that individuals in Central America, South America, and Mexico are aware that if they engage a smuggler to cross the border between ports of entry without a valid asylum claim, they will be returned.

Cecilia Vega asked if the White House has been sending mixed messages to migrants.

Raul Ortiz: Oh, absolutely.

Cecilia Vega asked if the presence of all these factors indicates that people are still crossing the river at this location.

Raul Ortiz mentioned that the guides or smugglers play a significant role in bringing the migrants across. He emphasized that the cartels controlling these areas on the Mexican side have a well-calculated system in place.

As we ventured about seven miles north of Shelby Park, we unexpectedly stumbled upon a gathering of migrants who had recently made the treacherous journey across the Rio Grande. It was at this precise moment that the Border Patrol swooped in to apprehend them, marking the end of their arduous odyssey.

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Cecilia Vega pointed out that regardless of the amount of manpower or wire put up, people will always find a way to get in.

Governor Greg Abbott completely disagrees with this statement because…

Cecilia Vega: You really do?

Governor Greg Abbott stated that in Texas, they will be barricading every area where people are crossing until they achieve the same level of security as the current area.

Cecilia Vega asked, “Texas is going to barricade every area? What do you mean?”

Governor Greg Abbott has announced his plan to implement barricades in every area that the cartels use as a crossing.

According to Cecilia Vega, the border will resemble a war zone.

According to Governor Greg Abbott, the situation can be likened to a war zone.

In the last three years, the Biden administration has conducted over 4 million expulsions and deportations, surpassing the numbers under the Trump administration. However, it has also permitted a staggering 3 million individuals to stay in the country for an extended period while awaiting their immigration cases to be resolved. Additionally, the Border Patrol approximates that approximately 1.6 million people have entered the country unlawfully without detection.

Former President Trump made a visit to Shelby Park alongside Governor Abbott last week. They took the opportunity to engage with the local community and discuss important matters.

President Biden also made a visit to the Texas border in Brownsville on the very same day.

President Biden argues that the Republicans’ rejection of a bipartisan immigration deal in the Senate last month indicates a lack of seriousness in their efforts to secure the border. This deal, which was opposed by former President Trump, aimed to enhance funding for the Border Patrol and impose a requirement for the expulsion of all migrants crossing illegally during surges, similar to the one witnessed at Shelby Park in December.

Texas and Washington are currently embroiled in a heated dispute over a recently enacted law signed by Governor Abbott. This law grants authority to over 2,700 law enforcement agencies in Texas to apprehend migrants who illegally cross the border. Subsequently, Texas judges have the power to order these migrants to either return to Mexico or face legal consequences, effectively bypassing the federal immigration system altogether.

Critics argue that the law lacks clarity in defining the circumstances under which authorities can detain individuals, as it is written in a broad manner.

Inquiring about the potential issue of racial profiling, we reached out to Lt. Olivarez from the Texas Department of Public Safety, also known as “DPS.”

Lt. Christopher Olivarez emphasized that their troopers will not be conducting vehicle searches or verifying immigration status.

Cecilia Vega pointed out that the law has been drafted not only for DPS.

Lt. Christopher Olivarez explained that the law in question is specific to Texas.

Cecilia Vega pointed out that the execution of this task would take place at a considerable distance from the border.

Lt. Christopher Olivarez wholeheartedly agrees.

Cecilia Vega asked if being Latino could potentially make someone get caught up in a situation.

Lt. Christopher Olivarez disagrees with the notion that law enforcement officers can freely inquire about the immigration status of individuals in a car without any probable cause. He emphasizes that probable cause is necessary for stopping a vehicle. Merely interviewing every person in a car for their immigration status is not a valid approach. However, he acknowledges that there might be situations where other agencies, not directly involved in border control, could consider immigration status as a factor.

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Cecilia Vega asked if that made him nervous.

Lt. Christopher Olivarez suggests that it is likely for multiple agencies in Texas to be involved in the implementation of the new law. He believes that each police chief should establish specific policies and procedures to effectively enforce the legislation.

Last week, a federal judge issued a temporary halt on the implementation of the new law as it faces legal challenges. The Department of Justice and the American Civil Liberties Union have filed a lawsuit against Texas, asserting that the law encroaches on the federal government’s jurisdiction over immigration. However, Governor Abbott contends that Texas is facing an invasion and has the prerogative to protect itself. This perspective has struck a chord with militias and organizations that oppose illegal immigration. In fact, a number of them joined a convoy and rallied in the Eagle Pass area last month.

According to Governor Greg Abbott, the term “invasion” is explicitly mentioned in the United States Constitution. He personally uses both “invasion” and “imminent danger” to describe the current situation. He emphasizes that the threat is imminent due to the continuous activities of drug cartels and the constant crossing of both identified and unidentified terrorists.

Cecilia Vega asked if there were concerns about violence stemming from the language used by the convoys and militia, particularly the word “invasion.” She mentioned that migrants have had to be relocated from certain areas for their own safety.

Governor Greg Abbott emphasized that there is no language that should incite violence. He made it clear that violence of any kind is not acceptable.

Cecilia Vega wonders, “How will this all come to an end?”

Governor Greg Abbott believes that the solution to the problem of illegal entry into the United States is quite straightforward. It requires a president who is committed to fulfilling their oath of office and enforcing the laws of the country. This includes taking measures to deny illegal entry into the country.

Cecilia Vega: Are you interested in becoming Trump’s running mate?

Governor Greg Abbott firmly stated that the answer is a resounding no.

Cecilia Vega: What if he poses the question to you?

Governor Greg Abbott expressed his deep passion for serving as the governor of Texas. He emphasized that his primary focus and contribution lie in fulfilling his duties as the state’s governor.

The governor has already allocated over $11 billion to Operation Lone Star. In the past three years, there has been a decrease in the number of people illegally entering Texas, while border states have experienced an increase. Critics of Abbott argue that this decline may be attributed to factors such as stricter migration policies implemented in certain parts of Mexico.

Every year, Texas continues to witness over a million illegal border crossings.

Former Border Patrol Chief Raul Ortiz expresses concern over the ongoing disputes between Texas and the federal government regarding immigration. With at least a dozen lawsuits in progress, the infighting raises worries about the effectiveness of immigration policies and their impact on border security.

Raul Ortiz expresses his concern that the National Guardsmen, and even the border patrol agents, have become mere pawns in the political game played by both sides.

Cecilia Vega asked, “Who is winning?”

Raul Ortiz emphasized that the ones benefiting the most from the ongoing conflict between Texas and Washington D.C. are the cartels and criminal organizations. They are the ones who are profiting while the two sides engage in their dispute.

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