WESLACO, Texas -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, speaking in Weslaco on Thursday, said, “The Biden Administration’s open border policies have created an open season for human traffickers, for drug smugglers, for cartels and gangs.”
Abbott held a news conference after visiting the south Texas border to discuss Operation Lone Star, the state's effort to ramp up law enforcement due to the influx of people and children crossing into the U.S. from Mexico.
Operation Lone Star also includes efforts to crackdown on human trafficking related to illegal border crossings.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Colonel Steve McCraw, Adjutant General of Texas Tracy Norris, members of the National Border Patrol Council and local law enforcement were also present at the news conference.
“These criminals are praying upon women and children, exposing them to abuse and to terror,” said Abbott. “Because the federal government is failing to act to respond to these dangers, Texas is stepping up to secure the border and to keep our communicates safe.”
Abbott said that Operation Lone Star was launched about a month ago to achieve that goal. “Operation Lone Star was launched for the purpose of filling the gaps that are left open as border patrol officers are busy, occupied with detaining the large number of people who are coming across the border.”
Abbott said that when border patrol officers are occupied with detaining illegal border crossers, it leaves opportunities for human smugglers, cartels and drug smugglers.
Abbott said that since Operation Lone Star began on March 4, “The Texas Department of Public Safety has made 598 criminal arrests. They’ve also made more than 16,000 referrals of illegal immigrants to Border Patrol.”
Abbott went on to describe the type of arrests that DPS has made in the last 28 days.
In early March, Abbott said one of the arrests involved a “stash house” in the Rio Grande Valley. “DPS troopers and special agents discovered four illegal immigrants and a gang member,” said Abbott. “The gang member was wanted on two counts of rape of child under the age of thirteen.”
Abbott said another was arrested on March 8 during a traffic stop who was wanted for continuous sexual assault of a child.
“On March 14 troopers attempted to make a traffic stop that escalated into a pursuit,” continued Abbott. “After the pursuit was done and after stopping the vehicle they discovered the male driver was smuggling illegal immigrants including a 14-year-old child who had been sexually assaulted. The driver also had child pornography on his phone.”
Abbott detailed one incident in which a 6-month-old child was thrown into the river. “On March 16, the Department of Public Safety assisted the Border Patrol, with several waves of illegal immigrants being smuggled on rafts. This included 217 illegal immigrants apprehended including, among that group 152 children. One of those children was a 6-month-old girl who was thrown into the river by smugglers.”
Abbott said that they do things like that to make law enforcement focus in the child rather than chasing the smugglers and cartel members.
That baby and mother – who had a broken leg at the hands of the smugglers – were rescued by DPS Trooper Curtis Woodard, according to CNN affiliate KTVT.
“I heard splashing and ‘ayuda, ayuda’ (Spanish for ‘help’) from a distressed woman… I climbed into a tree and see that this woman is hanging onto a tree branch with the baby in her arm… the water’s going over the baby,” the trooper said. “I got above her, kind of fell in, grabbed the baby, held the baby like a football and helped the woman onto a tree branch.”
Abbott also said that drug cartels are using social media sites like TikTok to recruit people in Texas to assist them in crimes with the promise of money and other things.
“In less than one month through [Operation Lone Star] they have seized more than 14 pounds of cocaine; more than 23 firearms; they’ve arrested nine people who have been identified as members of gangs; and seized almost a million dollars in currency,” Abbott said of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“This is just the beginning of what is going to be an onslaught unless and until the Biden Administration steps up and does something about it,” the governor concluded.