Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that state authorities have secured “operational control” of Fronton Island, a staging location situated in the Rio Grande that drug cartels and human traffickers have allegedly utilized in their criminal operations.
As previously reported by The Dallas Express, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Texas National Guard have been working to secure the island in recent weeks.
“Our engineer teams installed over 1.4 miles of wire along the Texas-Mexico border,” said DPS Sgt. Jake Jordan, according to a press release. “The project was executed in a timely and safe manner and provides not only the wire blocking obstacle but allows Guard and law enforcement freedom of maneuver around the entire island.”
Abbott posted on social media about the latest developments.
“This was one of the most dangerous areas along the Texas-Mexico border. Texas continues to hold the line against Biden’s border crisis and protect our nation from cartels,” wrote the governor.
The re-establishment of state authority over the island comes as officials continue to butt heads with the federal government over what measures Texas can take to secure its border with Mexico.
For instance, Attorney General Ken Paxton previously filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration alleging that the cutting of concertina wire by federal agents assists unlawful migrants attempting to enter the country, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Texas filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent federal agents from cutting such border deterrents. U.S. District Judge Alia Moses granted the motion “until the parties have an opportunity to present evidence at a preliminary injunction hearing before the Court.”
Initially scheduled to end on November 13, the order has since been extended by 14 days and will now terminate on November 28, per Spectrum News.
Although the order prevents federal agents from cutting the wire, Steve McCraw, director of DPS, reportedly confirmed that state troopers sometimes cut the wire. McCraw spoke with The Dallas Morning News and said troopers do so in cases of medical emergency and if a crime is being committed on the other side of the wire.
“We’re doing it to go rescue somebody — a person at that point in time,” said McCraw to DMN. “We’re not doing it to allow a large number of migrants to enter between the ports of entry. We want them to go to the ports of entry.”
McCraw clarified that state troopers only cut deterrent wire in the event of an emergency, claiming that agents from U.S. Customs and Border Protection remove the wire to let unlawful migrants enter.
Body camera footage obtained by DMN purportedly showed state troopers rescuing a group of unlawful migrants that were stuck in the wire. The troopers then arrested those attempting to cross into the United States.
Victor Escalon, regional director for DPS’ South Texas region, wrote instructions on how to handle such incidents in an email to state troopers.
“As we enforce State law, we may need to open the wire to aid individuals in medical distress, maintain the peace, and/or to make an arrest for criminal trespass, criminal mischief, acts of violence, or other State crimes,” he wrote in July, per DMN.
Kristin Etter, a defense attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid that often represents unlawful migrants, said in an interview that the actions taken by both agencies are similar and should be seen the same way.
“Law enforcement officers, including Texas DPS and National Guard members, routinely cut concertina wire to allow migrants to pass through,” Etter said, per DMN. “That is because the alternative to doing that is to watch people, including many women and children, die a slow death.”