DEL RIO, Texas (Nexstar) — On Thursday, Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to assist in shutting down six points of entry along the southern border, his office confirmed.
“The sheer negligence of the Biden Administration to do their job and secure the border is appalling. I have directed the Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to surge personnel and vehicles to shut down six points of entry along the southern border to stop these caravans from overrunning our state,” Gov. Abbott originally said in a statement.
“The border crisis is so dire that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is requesting our help as their agents are overwhelmed by the chaos. Unlike President Biden, the State of Texas remains committed to securing our border and protecting Americans.” the statement continued.
Abbott’s office issued another statement later on Thursday after it says the Biden administration reversed the governor’s decision to close the points of entry.
“Six hours after U.S. Customs and Border Protection requested help from Texas to close ports of entry and secure the border, the Biden Administration has now flip-flopped to a different strategy that abandons border security and instead makes it easier for people to cross illegally and for cartels to exploit the border,” Abbott’s office said. “The Biden Administration is in complete disarray and is handling the border crisis as badly as the evacuation from Afghanistan.”
The new statement went on to say Abbott has directed Texas DPS and Texas National Guard to instead “maintain their presence at and around ports of entry to deter crossings.”
“The Department of Homeland Security is not seeking assistance from the State of Texas to shut down ports of entry. It would be a violation of federal law for the Texas National Guard to unilaterally do so,” a Department of Homeland Security spokesperson said.
Earlier Thursday, during the first weekly Operation Lone Star briefing with Texas Department of Public Safety, Lt. Chris Olivarez said, “Before I came here today, my last instructions are we’re going to shut down all the POEs in Del Rio. That is the plan as of now.”
“The migrants are coming to the POEs. So we’re going to link up with our partners, and we’re going to shut down those POEs, we’re going to make it difficult for anybody to come across,” Olivarez explained.
Earlier this summer, the Governor directed state troopers to arrest migrants for criminal trespassing.
“We initiated that initiative on July 20, focusing in the Del Rio Val Verde County, and Kinney county areas. We have an infrastructure in place, we’re arresting 20 to 30 to 40 a day,” Lt. Olivarez said during Thursday’s breifing.
But local communities are left dealing with the consequences.
“Just to make the blanket representation that you’re going to arrest anybody for criminal trespass, who steps foot on private property, perhaps is a little overreaching,” Val Verde’s county attorney David Martinez said.
He explained he interpreted DPS Sgt. Steve McCraw’s direction to only arrest those with truly criminal intent, so he choosing not to prosecute some cases that come across his desk.
“The spirit of his words were, hey, we’re not looking to arrest those people that are looking to turn themselves into To the authorities seeking asylum claim. Well, if that were true, I wouldn’t have 250 files sitting on my desk right now,” Martinez said, adding that he’s dismissed around 45 cases now.
He said these numerous arrests lead county officials juggling the state’s operation with their own local safety.
“It’s still a challenge to try to keep up and to try to ensure that we can continue to process people in our jail who are not a part of Operation Lone Star to ensure, again, public safety,” Martinez said.
In July, the Governor tried to alleviate some of that overcrowding. He ordered the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to convert the Briscoe Unit into a jail to house migrants arrested during Operation Lone Star.
That’s now extended into another unit, the Segovia Unit in Edinburg. As of Thursday, there are 833 being held in the Briscoe Unit, and 42 in the Segovia Unit.
Martinez said he thinks the state is doing the best it can, especially with a lack of help from the federal government.
“This is beyond an immigrant crisis. This is a human crisis. I just really wish that the federal government would do its part,” Martinez said.