Texas Border Standoff: On the Ground With DX

The southern border in Eagle Pass, Texas.
The southern border in Eagle Pass, Texas. | Image by Collin Pruett/The Dallas Express

EAGLE PASS — Reporting on the ground, The Dallas Express is covering the ongoing dispute between the federal government and the State of Texas over the latter’s right to defend the southern border.

Tensions have escalated after multiple Texas law enforcement agencies and the Texas National Guard seized control of Shelby Park in Eagle Pass and barred federal agents, including Border Patrol, from accessing the area and city-owned riverfront property.

Shelby Park is a large public park that is sandwiched between downtown Eagle Pass and the Rio Grande. An international bridge passes over the park and connects Eagle Pass to Piedras Negras in Mexico.

The park became a hotbed of unlawful migration as Eagle Pass and surrounding communities increasingly became embroiled in the unprecedented border crisis. As DX previously reported, record-high levels of unlawful border crossings have ramped up political tensions between Republican-led states that oppose President Joe Biden’s handling of the crisis and the federal government.

Tensions came to a head when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Border Patrol had the right to remove concertina wire installed by Texas forces to deter unlawful migration. Gov. Greg Abbott responded in a fiery letter asserting the State of Texas’ sovereignty over the Texas-Mexico border and vowed to continue barring federal assets from entering Shelby Park.

The standoff between armed personnel from Texas and the federal government led many commentators to conclude the United States had entered a period of constitutional crisis. The Dallas Express visited Eagle Pass to ask local residents and government personnel how the ongoing standoff has impacted them.

Arturo Flores, a vendor at a flea market that operates in a parking lot across the street from Shelby Park, told DX that the border dispute was harming his business.

“I don’t know much about what is happening,” he said. “I heard that Gov. Abbott put in the wire and closed the park and that the Biden administration did something, and now they are going to remove the wire. I just want it to end.”


Flores said Shelby Park is the primary parking spot for flea market customers in a downtown area that is otherwise short of parking options. He then reiterated his desire for the standoff to end:

“We have our flea market in this parking lot. People with trailers parked in Shelby Park, but now they can’t, so we have lost a lot of people and business. I hope it ends soon.”

Flores’ view of the situation seemed to match the overall dispassionate attitude of residents in the area. Despite the fiery rhetoric on both sides of the political aisle, Eagle Pass displayed a notable ambivalence. Citizens in the area did not gather to protest or observe the concentration of Texas law enforcement and guardsmen. They did, however, come in large numbers to Flores’ flea market, albeit by parking illegally in the limited spaces downtown and near Shelby Park.


The ambivalent attitude may reflect a community-wide resignation to the impact of the border crisis. In two days DX observed four arrests that took place within city limits and one on Highway 57 between Eagle Pass and San Antonio. The latter involved five law enforcement vehicles and a drug K9.

That’s the type of danger that Galveston County Constable Paul Edinburgh is trying to prevent from spreading to his county by way of the Eagle Pass sector of the border.

Edinburgh deployed to nearby Bracketville alongside other officers from Galveston County as part of Operation Lonestar, Abbott’s border security initiative.

Bracketville is located to the north of Eagle Pass and to the east of Del Rio. The three cities form a triangle of remote outposts in the forbidding terrain of southwestern Texas. Bracketville is the smallest of the three towns, with a population of just under 1,500 people. Its location in Kinney County makes it a convenient route for human traffickers aiming to bypass the relatively fortified cities of Eagle Pass and Del Rio on their way into the United States.

“Bracketville has six or seven major thoroughfares going in and out of Kinney County. They’re going out of the way to avoid checkpoints in Uvalde and other towns when they’re coming from Eagle Pass. Most everybody is crossing in Eagle Pass and heading our way,” Edinburgh told The Dallas Express.

This often leads to dangerous encounters with smugglers, including high-speed police chases. Video shared by the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) last year shows the kind of incidents that have come to characterize the highways of Kinney County and southwestern Texas. Edinburgh said that officers often find vehicles stuffed with unlawful migrants after high-speed pursuits.

“We started concentrating on the human smuggling aspect. In a full-size super duty truck, you can fit 10-15 people easy. They’ll take the backseats out and shove people in the cab and the bed with backpacks.”

Such encounters are not rare. They happen nightly.

“We have apprehended thousands of illegal immigrants over the course of the years we’ve been down there,” he said. “Hundreds of felony arrests and thousands of illegal immigrants.”

Edinburgh said hundreds of unlawful migrants used to freight-hop on trains, leading to mass arrests at Kinney County’s remote rail crossings. Galveston County officers eventually helped Kinney and Goliad County officers deter freight-hopping, and the force began to focus on smugglers.

Galveston County deployed half a dozen officers on rotation to Kinney County. They work alongside three officers from Goliad County. Kinney County, with its limited budget, employs only six officers. These 15 officers are tasked with maintaining public safety in a 1,365-square-mile county, an impossible task.

Despite the odds, Edinburgh told The Dallas Express that Galveston County’s officers are committed to staying deployed as part of Operation Lone Star.

“We are absolutely committed to keeping this going. I’ve not heard any talk of it slowing down or stopping. We’re committed to being there as long as we can. As long as the need is there and Operation Lone Star is in effect, we’re committed to keeping it going,” he said.

Galveston County has the second-highest rate of fentanyl overdoses in Texas, and Edinburgh said local officials were motivated to act as a result of the seemingly unencumbered flow of illegal drugs making their way across the border and into the county. Edinburgh also said his officers routinely find maps that suggest traffickers have been transporting drugs and unlawful migrants to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

Despite the devastating impact of drugs and crime that traffickers bring to Dallas, Dallas County has not joined Operation Lone Star, leaving smaller Texas counties to make the sacrifice and help manage the border crisis. Edinburgh made sure to stress to The Dallas Express and its readership that the border crisis is a statewide issue.

“This isn’t just Galveston or the border we’re talking about. Your audience in Dallas should know we have found maps on traffickers showing they intend to go to Dallas frequently. It’s a statewide problem. They’re everywhere,” Edinburgh said.

South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem visited Shelby Park and toured the Rio Grande with DPS on Friday afternoon. Her visit was accompanied by a cadre of journalists filming Shelby Park near the flea market — an example of the unwanted attention the Eagle Pass standoff has brought to the cartels operating in the area.

The media coverage surrounding Eagle Pass has characterized the ongoing dispute between the State of Texas and the Biden administration as a standoff, with many commentators predicting a potential physical altercation between federal and state personnel. Speculation of this nature intensified after the Biden administration issued a 24-hour deadline for Texas to provide federal agents access to Shelby Park without specifying what steps would be taken if Texas did not comply. As of this report, the administration’s deadline has passed, and Texas has yet to admit federal personnel to the park.

Saturday morning, Texas personnel and members of the Florida State Patrol seemed to vastly outnumber federal assets in Eagle Pass and its immediate surroundings. Scores of DPS vehicles patrolled the town, joined by a concentration of Texas National Guardsmen in Shelby Park. The guardsmen were deployed in a mix of Humvees, half-tracks, and rented trucks.

The Dallas Express saw a scattering of Homeland Security vehicles throughout the town at local hotels and Border Patrol’s headquarters in Eagle Pass, which was closed with a near-empty parking lot.


Border Patrol’s presence was concentrated at a checkpoint on Highway 57 and the international bridge from Eagle Pass to Piedras Negras. Agents were also sighted surveying the dry river bottom of the Nueces River near the unincorporated community of La Pryor 45 miles northeast of Eagle Pass.

The limited federal presence in Eagle Pass seems to make any imminent physical altercation between the State of Texas and the federal government unlikely at the time of this report. However, Texas officials are aware of the potential if circumstances change.

Speaking with Tucker Carlson on Friday, Abbott said the state was “prepared” for a potential conflict with the federal government.

The short but wide-ranging interview also allowed Abbott to express his optimism over the fact that 25 states recently signed letters in support of Texas, pledging national guardsmen and police officers to help bolster the state’s efforts to secure the southern border. Abbott said he would “be shocked and disappointed” if all 25 states did not provide personnel.

Abbott’s interview was followed in the evening by a letter from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to the Department of Homeland Security that attempted to flip the legal script on the federal government, as reported by DX.

“By February 15, DHS must supply the official plat maps and deeds demonstrating the precise parcels to which they claim ownership, an explanation of how Texas is preventing access to those specific parcels, documentation showing that Eagle Pass or Texas ever granted permission for DHS to erect infrastructure that interferes with border security, and proof of Congress empowering DHS to turn a Texas park into an unofficial and illegal port of entry. If the federal government is going to make such claims, it must provide proof,” Paxton wrote.

Amid the ongoing dispute between Texas and the Biden administration, some members of Congress are moving to impeach Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. In a letter addressed to the House Republican Conference, House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA) said he aims to hold an impeachment vote “as soon as possible.”

“The facts show that President Biden and his Homeland Security Secretary Mayorkas have willfully ignored and actively undermined our nation’s immigration laws,” Johnson added in the letter, per CBS News. Johnson also lambasted rumored outlines of a possible Senate border security bill, calling the proposal “dead on arrival” in the House on Friday.

The dramatic escalation of border-related political tensions has yet to manifest into tension in the Eagle Pass community but is being reflected in national polls. A recent Harvard-Harris poll found that “immigration” is the top political concern for Americans heading into the 2024 presidential election. Immigration beat inflation to register as Americans’ top concern, with 35% of respondents naming the issue.

Abbott mentioned the political implications of the border crisis in his interview with Carlson, noting that he believed voters would put a new executive in the White House come election day.

“This will all come to an end on January the 20th of next year because I believe a new president will be sworn in, a president who will actually enforce the immigration laws of the entire country,” the governor said.

The Dallas Express will continue to provide updates on this fast-developing story as events occur.

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