DEL RIO, Texas — State troopers deployed to the border by Gov. Greg Abbott are being credited for doing the federal government’s job and stopping thousands more migrants in Mexico from illegally crossing into the United States after well over 15,000 made it through here late last week.
A swarm of Texas Department of Public Safety officers, known as troopers, descended on the riverbank Saturday afternoon as a show of force to deter people in Mexico from wading across the Rio Grande. Approximately 150 black SUVs were still lined up Sunday afternoon on the dirt road that runs parallel with the river.
Their arrival on the scene Saturday had an immediate impact, stopping foot traffic from primarily Haitian migrants who had been going back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico.
“With our DPS troopers, there have not been any crossings from that specific area,” Lt. Chris Olivarez, spokesman for the department’s South Texas Region, said in an interview on Sunday.
The impact DPS’s arrival has had on Border Patrol agents has been significant. Despite it being the responsibility of Customs and Border Protection to patrol the nation’s borders, virtually all agents have been pulled from the field to transport migrants to and from holding facilities and then process and care for them once in custody.
Those under the bridge are in an unusual go-between point as they are not in custody, but they are waiting under the bridge in hopes of being taken into custody and then released into the U.S. They may claim asylum to avoid being flown back to Haiti, though Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said Sunday that most families will be released into the country and adults will be repatriated.
Jon Anfinsen, a Border Patrol agent who is president of the national union’s Del Rio chapter, said it was “great” seeing the state police officers pull in and hold the line because they regained control of the land that had fallen out of the federal government’s control.
“Literally, we could not have any semblance of control down here without DPS,” Anfinsen said in an interview beneath the bridge. “DPS has thankfully come out here and helped us out dramatically. We literally could not control this or have even some semblance of control without DPS, National Guard, all the other local stakeholders that are out here.”
Brandon Judd, a Border Patrol agent who is the national union president of the National Border Patrol Council, estimated that troopers outnumber federal agents by 3 to 1. He said as many National Guard soldiers as troopers are also on site.
The thousands of police and military near the bridge are also bracing for a worst-case scenario as tensions build in the camp. Temperatures will hit triple digits again on Monday, and water and food are already in short supply. Those in the camp have been living outside for several days with little to no communication from federal agents running the site.
Desperate, the government bought meals at the nearby Rudy’s barbecue restaurant and A&W fast food restaurant. Before troopers arrived on the scene Saturday, many migrants had been crossing back to Mexico to buy food, water, and supplies and then bring them back to the U.S. while they awaited being transported to a processing station. When the troopers took control, it also meant no more supplies from outside the camp, though migrants at a nearby part of the river were able to sneak in some goods. Olivarez also confirmed migrants are crossing elsewhere.
“Anywhere we can scramble to bring large quantities of food, we’re doing it,” Anfinsen said. “That, I think, is probably going to be the No. 1 pressing concern.”
Olivarez did not disclose how long DPS expects to have its personnel on-site. Troopers from the north, west, and east regions were called in, some driving more than 500 miles to fulfill Abbott’s order.
“We’re here to support our federal partners, who is Border Patrol. We will be here as a deterrent and more as a security presence,” Olivarez said. “With the large group you have here, potential threats are possible. … We do know that this group right now, they are getting frustrated. It is very hot down here. There’s not sufficient, enough water or food for some of the groups to eat or get their water in a timely manner, so we’re ready for those potential threats with the teams that we have in place already.”
“This, believe it or not, is somewhat under control — frankly, only because the crowd’s allowing it,” Anfinsen said. “I mean, if they wanted to make an issue of it, they could. What are we going to do?”