Rio Grande Valley officials reacted largely with gratitude to the Wednesday news that Texas leaders directed the state Department of Public Safety to help U.S. Border Patrol at unspecified points on the state’s border with Mexico.
The recent flood of Central American children and families has overwhelmed Border Patrol agents, leaving the Rio Grande vulnerable to exploitation by Mexican cartels, proponents of the surge argue.
“I do believe it’s not beyond the cartels to take advantage of this situation, and in those circumstances I could see DPS being a major asset to the Valley,” said state Rep. Terry Canales, D-Edinburg.
DPS has not revealed any particulars of the program, other than its $1.3 million weekly price tag. But the announcement referred to Operation Strong Safety, a three-week DPS program in the Rio Grande Valley last September that included a surge of manpower and equipment from elsewhere in the state.
Operation Strong Safety also included traffic checkpoints, which incited anxiety and outrage in the Valley when they were perceived as state troopers enforcing immigration law. The checkpoints will not be set up this time, allowing the operation to garner more widespread support from local elected officials who were critical last year.
Others, while praising the surge, said the so-called “humanitarian crisis” needs more than just state troopers.
“What the local officials have told me are statements like, ‘Hey, pointing guns at children aren’t going to help. What we need is humanitarian, we need people who understand basically a crisis situation almost like hurricane mitigation,’” said state Sen. Leticia Van de Putte, D-San Antonio, the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor.
And while the White House this week announced it was sending aid to the Central American countries where many of the immigrants now passing through the Valley are from, it has yet to offer meaningful help here.
“I know they’re sending money to Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua,” said state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen. “How about sending some of that money down here?”