Lt. Chris Olivarez, Texas DPS’s South Region spokesman, reported during a press conference Thursday that his agency's troopers, along with National Guard soldiers, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department have apprehended and referred 165,000 people to relevant law enforcement for arrest over the past nine months alone.
The large majority were apprehended and referred to another agency, such as the U.S. Border Patrol, for arrest. The National Guard seized 84,000 of the 165,000.
Approximately 9,900 of the 165,000 were arrested on criminal trespassing charges, including 2,200 in the Del Rio, Texas, region, where tens of thousands of Haitian migrants passed through the border in September creating a makeshift camp under the international bridge.
DPS officers have engaged in more than 1,000 vehicle chases since March. On Nov. 26, a DPS trooper attempted to stop the driver of a Ford pickup truck suspected of smuggling illegal immigrants. The driver refused to pull over and led police on a chase. The truck crashed, resulting in the deaths of two people on board. Eleven other people inside were injured and rushed to a local hospital. The driver, who Olivarez said had been recently caught by Border Patrol illegally entering the country and was immediately returned to Mexico under the Title 42 pandemic protocols, was charged with human smuggling and evading arrest.
In another incident on Nov. 28, a DPS trooper working in Kinney County stopped a U-Haul truck and found 12 people being smuggled in the back. The driver and passenger in the front were from Oklahoma and members of the Crips gang.
"One thing about Del Rio that makes it unique is that we're seeing a lot of smugglers or individuals coming from larger cities — Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, even out of state," stated Olivarez. "They come down to the Rio Grande Valley or more specifically to Del Rio to become human smugglers because a lot ... has been advertised on social media by the criminal organizations."
The uptick in vehicle pursuits is due to the smuggling organizations recruiting more drivers and the DPS increasing its presence, thereby having more officers tasked with pulling over suspicious vehicles.
Other smugglers have been caught by Texas authorities attempting to move drugs into the United States from Mexico. Since March, Texas officials have intercepted more than 13,000 pounds of marijuana, 2,400 pounds of cocaine, 1,000 pounds of methamphetamine, and 157 pounds of fentanyl.
As the number of people illegally crossing the southern border rose after President Joe Biden took office, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, in March, created a statewide initiative, known as Operation Lone Star, in which state troopers from DPS would be sent to the border to help arrest trespassers while Border Patrol agents were pulled from the field to transport and process people in custody.