Texas Governor Abbott stands by controversial measures aimed at discouraging illegal border crossings

In January, the state of Texas took control of a park in a border town that was previously used for ballgames and flea markets. As a result, the U.S. Border Patrol was restricted from entering the area without any hindrance.

Shelby Park, located in the border town of Eagle Pass, has emerged as a central location in the ongoing border crisis and the political disputes between Republicans and the Biden administration. This area has witnessed a significant influx of migrants crossing the border from Mexico into the United States.

Republican Governor Greg Abbott has taken action in response to his concerns over the Biden administration’s lack of enforcement of federal immigration law. He has deployed numerous state police officers and national guard troops to Eagle Pass with the goal of deterring illegal border crossings.

“We plan to set up barricades in all the areas where people are crossing,” stated Abbot in an interview at Shelby Park. “Our aim is to block off every crossing point utilized by the cartels.”

How Shelby Park in Eagle Pass became the center of a border dispute

In December, “60 Minutes” accompanied soldiers from the Texas National Guard as they patrolled the banks of the Rio Grande. They encountered migrants crossing from Mexico and warned them about the illegal and hazardous nature of their actions.

Some of the migrants pleaded for assistance.

Several women in the crowd pleaded desperately, their voices filled with anguish, “We have children!”

Struggling with frustration, a young man grunted as he attempted to navigate through the tangle of sharp wire on the riverbank.

As they navigated through the wire, some migrants reassured each other to remain calm, urging children forward with them.

According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a record number of people crossed the river into Texas in late December, with thousands of individuals making it across and into the U.S. As a result, the Border Patrol had to convert Shelby Park into an open-air holding center due to the overwhelming number of people crossing the border.

Weeks later, after the surge had subsided, Abbott took the initiative to direct his Texas National Guard to prevent the Border Patrol from entering the park without prior permission. Abbott firmly believed that the federal government had not fulfilled its duty to safeguard the border.

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According to Lt. Christopher Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety, there is a specific reason why the state opposes the idea of allowing Border Patrol to process migrants in the park.

According to Olivarez, the challenge lies in preventing another surge of migrants. When Border Patrol establishes a processing center, it inadvertently attracts and encourages more individuals to cross the river, as they are aware of the designated location.

Texas’ history of border enforcement actions

Governor Abbott views Shelby Park, which has recently installed new barriers, as an exemplar of what the Texas border can resemble.

Raul Ortiz, the former chief of the U.S. Border Patrol under President Biden and deputy chief under former President Trump, expressed his disapproval of Abbott’s lack of cooperation with the Border Patrol. Ortiz, who is now retired, denounced Abbott’s politicization of immigration issues.

According to Ortiz, planting a flag is not a random act but rather a strategic and meaningful decision.

Shelby Park, located along the Texas border, is among the various areas where rolls of barbed wire have been installed since the initiation of Operation Lone Star by Governor Abbott in March 2021. In the months that followed, numerous migrants have been apprehended and held on trespassing offenses, while state troopers have taken decisive action against human smuggling networks.

The Democratic mayors have been facing a political and financial headache as the state has spent more than $150 million sending migrants on buses to cities like New York and Chicago. The trouble at the border has turned into a significant challenge for them.

Ongoing challenges in Texas

Abbott has already invested more than $11 billion in Operation Lone Star. Despite a decrease in the number of individuals illegally crossing the Texas border in the past three years, there are still over a million illegal border crossings occurring in Texas annually.

During the interview, “60 Minutes” had the opportunity to speak with former border patrol chief Ortiz. The conversation took place in an area located just four miles south of Shelby Park. As we walked through the terrain, we noticed a scattered collection of wet clothes. These items were abandoned by migrants who had crossed the Rio Grande and changed into dry garments.

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Just north of Shelby Park, “60 Minutes” encountered a cluster of migrants who had recently crossed the border and were being apprehended by Border Patrol.

A mother and her two sons, who were among the migrants, expressed their concerns about the situation. According to the mother, the presence of soldiers on the U.S. side of the border did not make her feel much safer. Instead, she feared the cartels in Mexico more than anything else.

“In Spanish,” the mother explained, “they sometimes abduct you and demand a ransom.”

Governor Abbott characterizes the border as a war zone.

“He said that is the situation Joe Biden has created for the United States of America.”

Clashing with the Biden administration

Ortiz expresses concern over the multitude of lawsuits currently underway between Texas and the federal government concerning immigration matters.

According to the expert, the National Guardsmen and Border Patrol agents have unfortunately become pawns in the political game between the two sides.

According to Ortiz, the ongoing conflicts between Texas and the federal government are ultimately undermining border security efforts. This, in turn, is benefiting the cartels and criminal organizations involved in smuggling operations.

According to Ortiz, “They are enjoying all the advantages while observing the ongoing conflict between Texas and Washington D.C.”

The federal government has consistently affirmed that border enforcement falls under its jurisdiction, as stated by the Supreme Court. However, there are critics who argue that Texas is taking matters into its own hands by establishing and implementing its own border policy.

According to Abbott, Texas is not imposing a border policy but rather enforcing the laws that have been established by the United States Congress.

During his tenure as chief of the border patrol, Ortiz voiced his own frustrations regarding the federal government. He highlighted the fact that he did not have any direct communication with President Biden or Vice President Harris.

According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Biden administration has surpassed the Trump administration in carrying out 4 million expulsions and deportations over the past three years. However, it has also implemented a policy that allows a record 3 million individuals to stay in the country while their immigration cases are pending. Additionally, the Border Patrol estimates that around 1.6 million people have entered the country illegally without being apprehended.

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President Biden accuses Republicans of not being serious about border security. He points out that they rejected a bipartisan immigration deal in the Senate last month. According to the deal, funding for the Border Patrol would have been increased, and the president would have been required to expel all migrants who cross the border illegally during surges, such as the one that occurred at Shelby Park in December.

Texas and Washington are currently engaged in a new battle, with the latest front being a recently signed law by Governor Abbott. This law grants authority to Texas’s extensive law enforcement agencies, numbering over 2,700, to arrest migrants who illegally cross the border. Once arrested, Texas judges have the power to either order these migrants to return to Mexico or to serve time, completely bypassing the federal immigration system.

Critics argue that the law’s broad language fails to establish clear guidelines for when authorities are allowed to detain individuals. This lack of specificity raises concerns about the potential for racial profiling.

Lieutenant Olivarez of the Texas Department of Public Safety assured, “Our troopers will not engage in the practice of stopping cars and verifying immigration status.”

According to Olivarez, there might be situations where immigration status could be considered by an agency outside of a border area.

According to Olivarez, it is likely that many agencies in Texas are already operating. However, he believes that every police chief should establish specific policies and procedures to effectively enforce this new law.

Last week, a federal judge issued a temporary halt to 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, contending that the law infringes upon the federal government’s control over immigration matters.

However, Governor Abbott asserts that Texas is facing an invasion and has the legitimate right to protect its borders. He states that Texas will appeal the judge’s ruling.

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