MISSION, Texas (KVEO) — Texas DPS troopers are not just taking care of Texas highways these days, but the Texas-Mexico border as well.
Operation Lone Star, a border initiative put in place by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, is being enforced across the Southern Texas Mexico border by The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS).
The operation currently has 1,000 Texas DPS troopers assigned to the Texas-Mexico border to crack down on illegal and human trafficking-related border crossings.
KVEO was allowed access with Texas DPS to see how the agency is enforcing the initiative from all angles, on the roads, in the river, and even up in the sky.
“Our troopers work border operations, day in and day out,” Lt. Christopher Olivarez said. “They share intelligence with other agencies about what’s taking place along the river and that’s when our boats go out there to intercept, whether it’s migrants or drugs.”
The mission goes beyond daily operations and now is an essential collaborative effort for one common goal: stopping illegal activity at the border.
Troopers help conduct interviews with unaccompanied minors who crossed the border to identify victims of human trafficking and gain actionable intelligence that will aid in the arrest of traffickers.
“It’s very effective because when Border Patrol isn’t out there, we have our boats there, so they’re working together,” Olivarez said.
Oftentimes, troopers are working 10- to 14-hour shifts, sometimes for up to 15 days straight.
Patrolling on the roads is just one way troopers are assisting.
Texas DPS joins U.S. Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Unit up in the sky, watching the border from all angles, 24 hours a day.
Texas National Guard also keeps watch from the air.
KVEO asked a Texas DPS pilot on average how often will troopers see people crossing in one shift.
“Every day is different, we can see two all the way to 200,” he said.
As of now, data shows the efforts of Operation Lone Star are working.
“Right now we are at 631 apprehensions, we made contact with 24,000 migrant referrals, this is migrants that we come across along the river or they’re smuggled into vehicles and then we refer them to Border Patrol,” Olivarez said.
Once migrants are apprehended by Texas DPS, U.S. Border Patrol picks them up.
But a big priority for Texas DPS is stopping the smuggling before it starts. Now, they’re seeing it happening virtually.
“We’re seeing people use TikTok, Snapchat, and other social media sites to advertise drivers to come down to the RGV to smuggle across,” said Olivarez. “We now see people from Austin, San Antonio, Dallas, Houston that come down just here for that purpose because they’re enticed on social media to come down here and make some money.”
Now more than ever, troopers say they’re seeing minors getting involved.
“The smuggling organizations are using juveniles because they know the chances of them getting prosecuted are very low and they know that, so they’ll use them to smuggle, get caught, be released, and do it again,” Olivarez said.
As of now, there are no plans to slow down as Abbott has not given an end date for Operation Lone Star.
“Operation Lone Star is delivering results to keep our communities safe, but it is also exposing the continued failures of the Biden Administration to secure the border,” Abbott said. “I want to thank the men and women of the Texas Department of Public Safety, the National Guard, and the U.S. Border Patrol for putting their lives on the line every day to secure the border, arrest dangerous criminals, and protect the victims of trafficking and smuggling. It is past time for the federal government to step up and secure the border, and I am urging the Biden Administration to take action now to save lives and get this crisis under control.”
Since the launch of Operation Lone Star on March 4, DPS has made 598 criminal arrests and made over 16,000 referrals of illegal immigrants to CBP. This averaged out to 21 criminal arrests per day and more than 571 referrals per day to Border Patrol.
The operation has also led to the seizure of 14 pounds of cocaine, 23 firearms, and millions of dollars in currency, and the arrests of nine gang members involved in the movement of this contraband.
Most recently, troopers captured a Texas Top 10 fugitive, Eric Munoz, a confirmed Valluco gang member, who was wanted for parole violation.
Munoz has a long record of charges including aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, aggravated sexual assault, assault causing bodily injury, evading arrest, DWI, theft, criminal trespass, possession of a controlled substance, and many more.
Less than one week ago, troopers in Rio Grande City were shot at by a Mexican Mafia gang member.
Mauricio Isaias Medina was arrested after an extensive search and is now facing three counts of criminal attempt capital murder and one count of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.
No trooper was not hit by Medina’s gunfire.