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Abbott declares border ‘open season’ for drug and human trafficking at the border

Abbott declares border ‘open season’ for drug and human trafficking at the border

by John C. Moritz | Statesman  |  Published on April 2, 2021

Escalating his attack on the Biden administration’s immigration policies, Gov. Greg Abbott said his monthlong initiative to help secure the Texas border has resulted in almost 600 criminal arrests and 6,000 referrals to federal authorities about unauthorized border crossings.

Speaking Thursday in Weslaco, about 10 miles north of the Rio Grande, and flanked by several law enforcement officials, Abbott said the recent rise in unauthorized crossings at the border have resulted in an “open season” for human- and drug-trafficking cartels.

“These criminals are preying on woman and children, exposing them to abuse and to terror,” Abbott said during a news conference at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s regional station.

“Because the federal government is failing to act to respond to these dangers, Texas is stepping up to secure the border,” he said.

President Joe Biden, at his news conference last week, acknowledged illegal immigration is rising. But he said the numbers had been increasing during the Trump presidency.

“It happens every single solitary year,” Biden said. “There is a significant increase in the number of people coming to the border in the winter months of January, February, March.”

He also said he makes no apology for allowing unaccompanied migrant minors to remain in the United States, at least temporarily.

In early March, Abbott launched what he called Operation Lone Star, dispatching more DPS troopers, Texas Rangers and National Guard troops to South Texas to assist local police and federal border agents.

Abbott at his news conference called on DPS trooper Curtis Woodard who this week helped rescue a migrant mother and her infant. They were thrown from a raft into the river by smugglers, according to agency officials.

“I climbed into a tree and see that this woman is hanging onto a tree branch with the baby in her arm,” Woodard said. “I got above her, kind of fell in, grabbed the baby, held the baby like a football and helped the woman onto a tree branch.”

The woman and infant were turned over to immigration authorities. A spokesman for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection office in South Texas did not immediately respond to an email seeking information on their whereabouts.

Abbott, a second-term Republican, has echoed and amplified GOP criticism of the Democratic president’s reversal of several of President Donald Trump’s border policies, including putting border wall construction on pause, pending review.

Last week, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn, and Ted Cruz, both R-Texas, led several of their Republican Senate colleagues on a tour of South Texas to highlight the border crossings.

Cruz, in particular, has been a vocal critic of Biden’s policy of not allowing media outlets to visit centers where unaccompanied migrant children are being housed.

Biden, who took office Jan. 20, is also under pressure from some of his fellow Democrats. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep Filemon Vela, D-Brownsville, and former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke of El Paso joined a group called the No Border Wall Coalition in urging the president to keep his campaign pledge to discontinue Trump’s signature wall project.

“I implore the Biden administration to make the temporary pause in construction permanent and to seek to repair the damage done to so many of these border communities, and, when making policy that will impact the border, listen to the people of the border first,” said O’Rourke, Cruz’s Democratic opponent in 2018 who is now considering a challenge to Abbott’s reelection bid next year.

Vela deplored what he called “hatred toward immigrants who contribute so much to our country” and pushed back against the narrative that communities along the Rio Grande are under siege.

“The border is not a war zone,” he said.

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