by Bethany Blankley
Through Texas’ border security mission Operation Lone Star, Texas Department of Public Safety troopers have rescued more than 900 children being smuggled into and through Texas from Mexico by human traffickers, DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez announced.
Among them was a recent rescue in Maverick County in Eagle Pass, Texas, where troopers found a five-year-old Honduran girl who’d been smuggled into Texas by three adult women who weren’t related to her. The women found the girl in Piedras Negras, Mexico, and then brought her with them as they crossed illegally into Texas between ports of entry.
Authorities said she was being brought to reunite with her mother; however, her mother had died three days prior. The girl told troopers her father was still in Honduras. She was turned over to Border Patrol.
In a recent traffic stop in neighboring Kinney County on a major local smuggling route, troopers pulled over a driver of a black GMC Sierra. The driver, a Mexican national who was illegally in the U.S., said he was coming from Houston to pick up friends. The trooper observed six passengers in the rear area of the truck and later learned they were all in the U.S. illegally, including two children.
When asked how the driver was related to another passenger in the car, he said they were “just friends.” When asked what his friend’s name was, the driver said he only knew his “nickname.”
“What about the people in the back seat?” the officer asked. They were his friends too, the driver said, but he also admitted he didn’t know their names or where they live. When the trooper asked another passenger if he knew who the driver was and what his name was, he said the same thing, a friend.
Later on, through the conversation, the driver admitted that someone from Mexico texted him an address to pick up a group of people who’d illegally entered Texas.
“They’re not in the country legally, then,” the officer asked. “Are you being paid to take them somewhere?”
The driver said he wasn’t being paid. But all smugglers are paid several thousand dollars per person depending on where they are taking them, law enforcement officers have explained to The Center Square, and Houston is the primary human trafficking hub in Texas.
The driver was charged with smuggling of persons and everyone inside was turned over to Border Patrol.
DPS troopers are also arresting criminals, including sex offenders and those in possession of child pornography. A DPS brush team recently helped arrest a Mexican national and coyote who was illegally in the U.S. after he guided four people across the Rio Grande River into Texas. On the coyote’s phone were pictures and video of child pornography. The Texas Rangers took over the case, and the Mexican national was charged with possession or promotion of child pornography.
DPS troopers are also identifying MS-13 gang members who are hiding in family units as they illegally cross into Texas. In a recent case, DPS Criminal Investigations Division troopers assisted Border Patrol agents with a large family group after they illegally crossed the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass. They noticed an adult male from El Salvador trying to conceal himself in the group and apprehended him.
Using facial recognition, they identified him as a possible national security threat with ties to transnational organized crime as well as confirmed he was an MS-13 gang member with eight prior apprehensions and a street-level drug dealer. He was turned over to Border Patrol.
Since Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star over two years ago, they’ve apprehended over 401,900 illegal foreign nationals and made more than 32,400 criminal arrests, with more than 29,600 felony charges reported, according to data from the governor’s office.
These numbers are in addition to record arrests of noncitizens at ports of entry by CBP agents. Fiscal year to date, OFO agents encountered over 15,000 people with criminal convictions, up from roughly 6,500 in fiscal 2021.
– – –