MCALLEN, Texas — The swarm of National Guard soldiers and state police that governors sent to guard the Texas-Mexico border earlier this summer is gone, leaving the border effectively unmanned with just 6% of the reinforcements left behind.
“We used to have a National Guard posted there,” Border Patrol agent Chris Cabrera told the Washington Examiner while driving along a dirt road that runs parallel with the border near the Hidalgo port of entry late one evening recently. “There was another one right over here, but they took that guy, too.”
Cabrera is the vice president of the Border Patrol union’s Rio Grande Valley chapter. On a 12-mile drive along roads that agents use to access the overgrown land along the Rio Grande, Cabrera points out a total of 11 spots where National Guard soldiers had been posted all summer. They manned mobile camera towers and could also call in sightings of illegal immigrants or drug smugglers attempting to sneak through the brush.
Now, no one is keeping watch and Cabrera admits that agents, half of whom have been pulled from the field to transport and process illegal crossers in custody, do not even know who is coming through in those unguarded areas. Cabrera described it as “wide open.”
“We were already stretched thin with their help and having them here relieved a lot of pressure on us,” Cabrera said. “Now they took away manpower that we can’t really afford for them to take away.”
Reinforcements were called in at the start of summer. In June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott solicited help from other states to patrol the border as more migrants were coming across than any time in the past two decades. Arkansas and South Dakota sent in state National Guard soldiers, while state troopers were called in from Florida, Iowa, Nebraska, and Ohio.
But four months since Abbott’s call for assistance, nearly all have quietly returned home, according to data provided by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Texas Military Department. The 48 soldiers from South Dakota were called back. Among the state police, all 14 in Ohio, 26 in Nebraska, 28 in Iowa, and 69 from Florida have been pulled from the line, unable to endlessly work out of state.
Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, a Republican, said on Wednesday that the state could not continue with the costs, while other governors have said their states need law enforcement back in their communities.
As of Friday, just 11 soldiers from outside Texas are the only out-of-state military or law enforcement help Texas has on the border, fewer than a tenth of the personnel who were there this summer.
“They would monitor the mobile center, mobile tower trucks, camera trucks,” Cabrera said. “Nobody is bringing those out because they’re not there. These were static positions where we would put a vehicle and two guardsmen in there so if somebody ran across that area, they could call it out.”
In this part of the Rio Grande Valley, it is common to see Border Patrol agents parked in their vehicles every half a mile to a mile. Just two agents were in the field on patrol in those 12 miles.
Many agents in the field here are assigned to an outdoor processing center under a bridge in Anzalduas Park. Just several dozen feet from the edge of that site, a single woman stood on the dirt road that Cabrera drove down. She approached Cabrera’s personal vehicle and said she was from Venezuela, having just crossed the river, and did not know where to go.
Further down Rincon Road, which is known as the dirt highway that migrants who have crossed the Rio Grande will walk down to find agents and surrender or get away, groups of families and single adults walked in from the river. Four Hidalgo County constables were parked at the top of the road ready to direct migrants toward the outdoor processing site, where they would wait for several hours before being transported to a tent facility or Border Patrol station.
One pregnant woman held her belly as she gave her name to one of the constables. Another woman on crutches told the constable she fell while trying to board the infamous “Beast” train in Mexico and the train wheel ran over her lower leg. Her leg was amputated below the knee, but she continued hundreds more miles determined to get to the United States. She is the last one in the group who surrendered and limped on behind the others.
The Rio Grande Valley has seen more illegal immigration encounters over the past decade than any of the eight other regions that the Border Patrol patrols along the 2,000-mile border.