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Eye in the Sky: How El Paso border officials are patrolling from the air

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- Fewer migrants are crossing into the Borderland since the expiration of Title 42.

That was the pandemic era health policy that gave immigration enforcement officials the power to turn migrants away due to the pandemic.

However, Department of Public Safety troopers remain in the borderland as part of Governor Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star.

And as one DPS trooper put it, the mission to help Border Patrol agents hold the line and keep migrants out, and smugglers behind bars remains active with eyes in the sky and boots on the ground.

Good morning El Paso Anchor Saul Saenz and producer John McMinn joined DPS pilots on board a DPS helicopter to see for themselves what pilots look out for from above, from rough desert terrain, urban areas, as well as high above Mt. Cristo Rey, to the big Bend Bend area near Van Horn.

Operation Lone star was activated in 2021.

That’s when Governor Greg Abbott ordered troopers to the Border to help with illegal immigration.

Air operations in El Paso followed months later.

Since then, DPS troopers have been instrumental in locating and arresting human smugglers.

They’ve also been able to pin point where migrants are trying to enter the U.S. illegally, as well as guide Border Patrol to those locations. 

“Out here, depending on which county you’re in, air operations are crucial because they are locating these groups and tracking them.” said DPS spokesperson Lt.  Elizabeth Carter.

DPS trooper Ralph Martinez explains, fewer migrants are being seen in areas where hundreds gathered just before the end of title 42 and what apprehensions look like today.

“We used to see hundreds, if not thousands a day. Now as you can see, no groups, no buildups as we used to have. Nothing at all,” said Martinez.

Trooper Martinez believes migrants crossing in large numbers were being used as pawns. 

“Not the migrants themselves, but I think the cartels were able to see that all the assets were tied up in this area in El Paso. 

So, it took agents off the line on this side, and it left gaps in the border so it made it that much easier to cross on that side,” added Martinez.

That area where migrants have been crossing illegally is in the Santa Teresa area, one of the most active migrant crossing areas in the Southwest.

Even though the number of migrant apprehensions are down, Troopers Martinez and Carter are not sure just how long they’ll be assisting Border Patrol as part of this operation initiated by Governor Abbott.

Until then, 

“We have our eyes in the sky and out boots on the ground,” said Lt. Carter.

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Saul Saenz


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