Texas State Troopers “Overwhelmed” Securing the Border

It’s not their job but they are doing it anyway, with no thanks from the president

By Andrew R. Arthur on November 24, 2021

In a November 22 article captioned “State troopers overwhelmed with rising illegal migration in West Texas”, the Washington Examiner explained how, despite the surge of state troopers sent to the border by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), those officers are struggling to keep up with the flood of illegal migrants attempting to make their way into the interior of the United States. Of course, securing the border is not their job to begin with, which makes the article all the more exasperating.

Thanks to the efforts of the Texas DPS, I was embedded with troopers when I travelled to Del Rio, Texas, in August. As I wrote at the time, there was little evidence of the border there, with few Border Patrol agents “on the line”, either by the international boundary at the Rio Grande or on the streets—a jarring image given their ubiquity during my prior trip there, four years before.

That is not to say that Border Patrol agents were not working. They were working, and hard, processing and caring for thousands of migrants who had turned themselves in with the (reasonable) expectation that they will be quickly released into the United States. That leaves agents little time to actually patrol the border, however.

The subhead to my August 12 article on my trip explained that there were “Two kinds of migrants: Those who don’t want to be found, and those who trudge miles to find an agent”.

As explained above, Border Patrol agents are busy dealing with the latter, while the responsibility for apprehending those actively evading detection largely fell on the Texas state troopers who were sent there by the state’s governor, Greg Abbott (R), under “Operation Lone Star”.

The press release for Lone Star explains: “The Operation integrates DPS with the Texas National Guard and deploys air, ground, marine, and tactical border security assets to high threat areas to deny Mexican Cartels and other smugglers the ability to move drugs and people into Texas.”

There is an extremely sad irony in the fact that, nine years after the Obama administration sued the State of Arizona in Arizona v. United States to prevent that state from enforcing its own immigration laws, the federal government is dependent on Texas DPS to do its job of securing the border.

Not that you will hear anyone from the Biden administration expressing thanks to Abbott, DPS, or the individual troopers. To the degree that they talk about the national security and humanitarian disaster at the Southwest border, it is terms like those used by DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas before the Senate Judiciary Committee on November 16.

As I explained in my November 18 post on that hearing, Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) asked Mayorkas whether he thought the United States had “more control over the border now than we did under Trump”. After some evasion, Mayorkas responded: “I think that we have more control consistent with our values as a nation.”

Apparently, those values preclude things like stopping drugs and migrants from entering the United States illicitly, because as I have explained numerous times in the past, both are flowing in, in the case of the migrants in numbers never seen at the Southwest border in American history. So, why this clearly fallacious response from the secretary?

Answers may be found in a November 22 post, where I analyzed reports that there is tension between factions within the White House over immigration, with a cadre of experienced Washington hands (the “pro-enforcement bloc” in my terms) battling immigration advocates who staffed the Biden campaign and now occupy key posts in the immigration bureaucracy (the “no borders” camp).

A review of any objective metric of border enforcement shows that the “no borders” folks are not only winning the day, but they are running the DC professionals out of the gym. Those in charge apparently like the daily chaos that is the Southwest border, circa November 2021, and don’t want things to change anytime soon. They may not even like, let alone appreciate, the troopers’ efforts.

That all said, the line Border Patrol agents are grateful for the troopers’ efforts. The Examiner quotes Border Patrol Agent Jeffrey Hammes, president of the National Border Patrol Council union's chapter in the Big Bend sector of Texas, who states: “A big concern for us as an agency right now and specifically Big Bend are ‘failure to yields’”, referring to migrant smugglers seeking to evade arrest.

Hammes continues:

These groups that are reaching a highway and are being able to load up into a pickup vehicle. We have been relying a lot on our local law enforcement partners to help us out a lot on those things. And DPS especially has been a fantastic asset for us and helping us with those vehicle stops.

While in Del Rio in August, I got to view the troopers’ efforts to stop those smugglers, and it was rough work. The arid scrub, spread out across thousands of acres, provided limitless opportunities for migrants, and their smugglers, to hide. It was old-school pursuit coupled with modern technology, but the most important assets were the troopers.

Many had not been home in weeks, and some had to rely on spouses and family to move them into new residences they had never seen. It has been well established that neither the president nor his quasi-border czar, Vice President Kamala Harris, have spent much time at the border of late, but if they did, I wonder how they would be able to look those troopers in the face.

A November 23 commentary piece in RealClearPolitics captioned “Why the Border Is Such a Problem for Biden -- and America” makes an interesting point about public concerns over the situation at the border, which is a long distance from most American communities (although it plainly has significant downstream effects there).

In analyzing why immigration is a drag on the president’s approval ratings, Charles Lipson – the Peter B. Ritzma Professor of Political Science Emeritus at the University of Chicago – explains that “the public is starting to connect rampant lawlessness on the southern border with rampant lawlessness in American cities. After all, Democrats control both and defend their policies on the same specious grounds: social justice.”

I stick to immigration and stay far away from local policing as a professional matter (except in this case of Texas DPS, where they are one and the same), but it is difficult to read the Examiner article and consider Mayorkas’s statements and not think that the professor is on to something.

Simply put, troopers are doing their best to secure the border – a strictly federal responsibility – despite, not in tandem with, the efforts of those calling the shots in Washington. The Examiner article makes clear that it is time for the federal government to pick up the slack. With the holiday season coming, however, those troopers had better expect to miss more time with family, because the president’s border policies show no sign of changing soon.