Border surge fuels sense of safety for many

Below are excerpts from a recent San Antonio Express-News article:

Repelling crime at the border, especially the trafficking of people and drugs, is what the state had in mind when it launched Operation Strong Safety in June 2014, spending hundreds of millions in its efforts to help seal the border.

“They’re plundering and raping,” DPS Director Steve McCraw said during a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on immigration and border security earlier this year. “You’ve got a border problem as relates to transnational crime.”

Under Govs. Rick Perry and Greg Abbott, the Texas Legislature has placed more than 600 troopers and Texas Rangers along the border and installed nearly 2,700 surveillance cameras and other equipment, mostly in the Rio Grande Valley.

The surge has led to more than 22,000 arrests, $1.2 billion worth of drugs seized, and the apprehension of almost 100,000 undocumented immigrants.

In recent months, even the once-harshest critics of the DPS presence seem to agree crime is on the decline.

As the troopers have settled in, it would seem most residents have come to accept them as part of life on the border.

“I think it’s totally different that it was in the beginning,” said state Rep. Ryan Guillen of Rio Grande City.

Among the objectives of Operation Secure Texas is rooting out corruption in the Rio Grande Valley, a region that has made regular headlines for its far-reaching public corruption scandals, which has cast a pall of suspicion on local authorities.

When Starr County’s tax assessor-collector and six deputy clerks were arrested on theft, bribery and forgery charges last December, the Texas Department of Public Safety Criminal Investigations Division and Texas Rangers helped with the investigation.

State investigators also assisted in bringing down a Rio Grande City police investigator in 2015 for his role in a conspiracy to provide a fake police report to a drug trafficker in exchange for $10,000.

Overall, DPS claims 57 arrests connected to public corruption cases along the entire border since June 2014.

Though DPS does not have the authority to enforce immigration laws, when troppers make contact with someone who’s admittedly or suspected to be in the country illegally, that person is referred to federal authorities, the agency said.

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