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DPS DIRECTOR TESTIFIES TO FEDS ON WHAT TEXAS IS DOING ON THE BORDER

Steven C. McCraw

Director

Texas Department of Public Safety

February 4, 2016

Judiciary’s Subcommittee on Immigration

and Border Security
Steven C. McCraw

Director

Texas Department of Public Safety

February 4, 2016

Good morning, Chairman Gowdy and distinguished members of the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security. My name is Steven McCraw, I am the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS), and I would like to thank you for the opportunity to testify before you today on this vitally important issue of an unsecured border with Mexico and the consequences it has had, and will have, for the state of Texas and communities throughout the country.

In an ever-changing threat environment where crime is increasingly transitory, transnational, organized, and discreet, and where terrorism has become more disaggregated, an unsecure border with Mexico represents a grave national security vulnerability. The porous border with Mexico provides cartels a reliable means to infiltrate this country allowing them to smuggle and traffic marijuana, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and people into and throughout the United States. In Mexico, the cartels engage in petroleum theft, kidnappings, robberies, human trafficking, extortions and murders for profit. Cartels employ terrorism tactics, strategies and corruption to protect their criminal operations, and they pose a serious threat to Texas and the United States as well as to the domestic security of Mexico, one of our nation’s most important economic trading partners.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott and the Texas Legislature understand that securing our nation’s border with Mexico is the sovereign responsibility of the federal government, however, the federal government has failed to adequately provide the appropriate resources to secure our international border with Mexico. That failure has forced the State of Texas to spend millions of dollars of state money to fulfill what is a federal responsibility.

Governor Abbott has long-recognized the gravity of this situation and in his first year in office, he signed into law the toughest border security program in the nation. As part of his plan, more than $800 million has been appropriated over the next two years to add more resources, more manpower and more assets toward securing our border. This includes state-of-the-art aerial assets, enhanced land and maritime patrols, advanced monitoring technology, enhanced communication capabilities, 250 new state troopers, a new company of Texas Rangers, pilots, additional support personnel, increased overtime and funding to conduct sustained surge operations in high threat areas.

In fact, in response to federal inaction dating back to June 2014, the DPS was then directed by state leadership to launch Operation Strong Safety, and most recently, Operation Secure Texas, as a multi-agency collaborative effort to deny Mexican cartels and their associates unfettered entry into Texas, and their ability to commit border-related crimes, as well as reduce the power of these organizations, whose success depends on their ability to operate on both sides of the border. In total, Texas has designated roughly $1.7 billion in state funds since 2005 to amplify border security efforts. With the increased funding authorized by our state leaders, Texas is further intensifying its border security operations by providing direct assistance to the U.S. Border Patrol to deter, detect and interdict smuggling along the Texas/Mexico border through the deployment of an integrated network of detection and communication technologies and an increase in ground, air and marine interdiction assets.

These additional resources will also allow DPS to expand current efforts with our local partners, as well as federal partners and the Texas Border Prosecution Unit to degrade the smuggling infrastructure used by the cartel plaza bosses to smuggle drugs and people into Texas. And the number of public corruption investigations along the border will increase with the additional Texas Rangers working with the FBI’s Public Corruption Task Force. Additionally, this also increases the funding for local law enforcement and border county prosecutors and expands the Texas Anti-Gang program to crack down on the gangs who support Mexican cartel smuggling and trafficking operations throughout the state. Again, these increased efforts would not be possible without additional resources provided by Governor Abbott’s Office and the Texas Legislature.

The current epicenter of this smuggling activity is the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and is further complicated by the recent surge of migrants from Central America and Cuba along the Southern border. As mentioned, the state of Texas leadership has repeatedly called upon the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) for additional assets and resources for the U.S. Border Patrol and the Office of Field Operations to strengthen our border defenses and combat transnational criminal activity along the Texas-Mexico border. Unfortunately, even the September, 2015, request from Governor Abbott to DHS for additional aerial observation and other resources has gone unanswered. As a result, in December, 2015, Governor Abbott directed the following actions:

  • Extend the deployment of the National Guard troops at strategic locations on the border intended to reduce illegal entry;
  • Instruct the Texas Department of Public Safety to coordinate with the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department to increase the number of boats and tactical officers at strategic locations on the Rio Grande River;
  • Instruct the Department of Public Safety to increase aerial observation missions to aid interdiction efforts;
  • Provide Grants to Ellis and Rockwall Counties to aid their efforts to respond to the unexpected relocation of unaccompanied minors to their counties.
  • Re-urge the Department of Homeland Security to increase border patrol agents in Texas.

Most recently, DHS requested a fifty percent reduction of persistent aerial detection, situational awareness, and monitoring support for Operation Phalanx from the Department of Defense. This request is troubling, given the additional resources requested by Governor Abbott last September. Any decrease in aerial observation is not only imprudent, but contradicts the very mission of comprehensive border security enforcement. Just a few days ago, Governor Abbott joined Texas Congressman Henry Cuellar whose district is losing fifty percent of the aerial surveillance in requesting the Department of Homeland Security explain why the federal government is pulling back on border enforcement. Texas provides extensive manpower, resources and oversight in support of Operation Phalanx, and expects the federal government to similarly fulfill its obligation to secure the border.

Despite this setback, with the support from our state’s leadership, DPS will continue working with its local and federal partners to target transnational criminal activity including drug trafficking, labor trafficking, sex trafficking and money laundering in key Texas transshipment and trafficking centers and other impacted areas throughout the state. As discussed, Governor Abbott and the Texas Legislature have invested a substantial amount of state resources in border security at a time when the state has many other vital priorities such as education, transportation and public health; however, there is an understanding in Texas that protecting our citizens is a fundamental responsibility of government, and they have committed to doing whatever is necessary to protect the people of Texas. That said, make no mistake that Governor Abbott and the Texas legislature fully expect to be reimbursed by the federal government as this action would not be necessary if the federal government fulfilled its obligation to secure our nation’s border.

In Texas, we understand the importance of close partnerships and unity of effort in combating crime and terrorism. It is important to note that it is our local law enforcement community along the Texas/Mexico border also serves on the front line in protecting our citizens from transnational crime. To that end, we combine the capabilities and expertise of border sheriffs, chiefs of police, Texas Military Forces, and other essential state and local law enforcement agencies, including constables and state game wardens to assist our U.S. Border Patrol partners with their vitally important mission.

In addition, the type and amount of resources that DPS has committed to this vital federal mission does not adequately reflect the substantial additional resources provided by local law enforcement, Texas Military Forces and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Texas employs a unified command structure to coordinate ground, marine, and air resources around-the-clock and we have developed contingency plans to address a myriad of transnational threats. Importantly, we enhance the impact of border security operations by degrading the smuggling structure operating within our border communities through multiagency investigations and prosecutions that target key drug and human smuggling networks essential to cartel operations.

The impact of Operation Secure Texas reaches far beyond the immediate border area, because as we know, human and drug trafficking impact the entire country and represents a threat to both public safety and national security.

For instance, if a community in this country has a drug problem – such as the current heroin addiction epidemic and explosion of heroin-related deaths in the northeast region of United States – they have a Mexican Cartel and unsecure border problem and if a community is plagued by transnational gangs such as MS-13 and MS-18, they have an unsecure border problem.

Rather than waiting for the effects of Mexican cartel activity to further penetrate our Texas communities and other states, Texas has chosen to fight the problem at the source – the porous border with Mexico. The foremost priority of Texas Sheriffs, Chiefs of Police and other local and state law enforcement agencies in the Texas border region has been and will continue to be the protection of its citizens from all threats including transnational crime and our second priority is to assist the U. S Border Patrol in securing the Texas-Mexico border which directly relates to our first priority.

I would also like to recognize and commend the brave men and women of the U. S. Border Patrol for their laudable actions in addressing their formidable responsibilities with the limited resources they have been provided. We are grateful for their dedication to keeping our nation safe from an array of public safety and homeland security threats, while facing incredible challenges every day.

Lastly, I would like to thank you, Chairman Gowdy and the other distinguished members of this subcommittee for your unwavering commitment to securing our nation’s borders in a way that helps ensure the safety of all Americans.

[Attached is the strategic intent, activity and the current level of DPS resources dedicated to the ongoing surge operation in Texas.]

Texas Border Security

Strategic Intent

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) will provide direct assistance to U.S. Customs and Border Protection to deter, detect and interdict smuggling along the Texas/Mexico border through the deployment of an integrated network of detection and communication technologies and an increase in ground, air and marine interdiction assets.

DPS will work with its local and federal partners and the Border Prosecution Unit to degrade the smuggling infrastructure used by the cartel plaza bosses to smuggle drugs and people into Texas.

The Texas Rangers will work with the Border Prosecution Unit and our federal partners to deter smuggling related corruption along the border by increasing the number of public corruption investigations, arrests and prosecutions.

DPS will work with its local and federal partners to target transnational criminal activity including drug trafficking, labor trafficking, sex trafficking and money laundering in key Texas transshipment and trafficking centers and other impacted areas throughout the state.

(I) DPS Deterrence and Detection Assets Deployed

DPS continues to enhance the level of detection coverage directly on the border with increases in tactical boats, the deployment of motion detection cameras, increases in camera installation capacity, increases in the number of helicopters capable of using FLIR day and night, assessing the viability of contracting for Aerostat coverage, acquisition of a high-altitude border surveillance aircraft, and the integration of all essential detection, tracking and communication technologies.

A. DPS Maritime Assets

The State of Texas has deployed DPS and TPWD boats on the Rio Grande River to deter and detect smuggling activity.

DPS Boats Assigned to the Border:

Tactical Boats Deployed Pending Totals
Medium and Deep Water 6 6
Shallow Water 2 2 4
Extreme Shallow Jet 3 3
Total 8 5 13

Full-time Personnel: 22

Personnel Temporarily Deployed to OST: 18

Additional Overtime FTE Equivalents from working OT: 30

DPS Officers temporarily deployed to the border work 12-14 hour shifts with no days off to increase coverage.

Total Personnel Strength: 70

B. Ground Sensors

The State of Texas does not have motion-detection ground sensors; however, U.S. Border Patrol sensors are monitored by DPS Aircraft that receive direct alerts when activated, and DPS Aircraft provide confirmation and coordinate interdiction efforts.

C. Detection Cameras

The State of Texas has implemented a camera detection program leveraging low-cost, high-capability motion-detection and low-light camera technology. Through this program, detections are immediately relayed to U.S. Border Patrol and DPS Command Posts, and directly to interdiction assets on the ground and DPS surveillance aircraft. The Texas Rangers and the U.S. Border Patrol work closely together to dramatically expand the ability to detect smuggling events in real time through this program.

i. DPS Installation Team

U.S. Border Patrol Technical Agents have installed and provided maintenance service for the vast majority of these cameras to date. Most recently, the DPS Special Operations Group has provided installation support to U.S. Border Patrol.  To further increase capacity, DPS has established an installation team using Texas State Guard personnel.

Number of New Installations in November 2015: 225

Texas State Guard Personnel Assigned: 7

ii. Detection Cameras Deployed*

Cameras Deployed Last 60 Days Last 12 Months Operation Total
Rio Grande Valley Sector 165 1,153 1,338
Laredo Sector 193 266 297
Del Rio Sector 96 495 551
Marfa Sector 17 77 104
El Paso Sector 13 17 24
Totals 484 2,008 2,314

*1,015 cameras were deployed prior to operational period beginning June 2014 for a total of 3,329 detection cameras.

D. Aerostats

Aerostats are buoyant balloons that remain tethered to the ground and are used to provide fixed long distance visual and radar coverage of an area. The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) currently operate three Aerostats on the border in the Rio Grande Valley. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has requested that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security provide CBP with five additional Aerostats to operate on the Texas-Mexico border.

Deployed Pending Totals
Aerostats 3 (CBP) (DPS)* 3
Total 3 3

*DPS’ Request for Information to assess viability of the state contracting for increased Aerostat coverage is pending.

E. Aviation Assets

The State of Texas has deployed DPS and Texas Military Forces aircraft to detect smuggling attempts along the Texas-Mexico border and to assist in interdicting those attempts. The fixed-wing aircraft receive direct alerts from U.S. Border Patrol ground sensors and DPS motion-detection camera activations, and the helicopters receive the DPS motion-detection camera alerts.  All DPS aircraft can communicate directly with U.S. Border Patrol Agents and Troopers on the ground.

DPS Aircraft with Advanced Detection and Communications Technologies Deployed Pending Totals
Helicopters 11* 11
Mid-Altitude Fixed Wing 2 2
High-Altitude Fixed Wing 1 1** 2
Total 14 1 15

*DPS helicopters in Longview and Waco have been reassigned to the border.

**An additional high-altitude aircraft for DPS was approved by the Texas Legislature and is in the procurement process.

Pilots and Tactical Flight Officers Permanently Assigned: 25

Pilots and TFOs Temporarily Deployed to OST: 8

Additional Overtime FTE Equivalents from working OT: 4

Total Personnel Strength: 37

 

(II) Interdiction

Once detected, it is important the smugglers either be interdicted or denied entry, which requires a well-coordinated and timely law enforcement response that can only be achieved with a sufficient number of personnel staffed around the clock.

A. Troopers

Troopers Currently Permanently Assigned: 563

New Permanent Trooper Positions Hired and Deployed: 124

Troopers Temporarily Deployed to OST from other areas: 230

Additional Overtime FTE Equivalents from working OT: 313

Total Trooper Strength: 1,230

B. Cortina Units

Cortina Units are joint DPS and U.S. Border Patrol interdiction teams.

Total Cortina Units 30

C. Tactical Operations

DPS Special Operations Group and U.S. Border Patrol Special Operations conduct joint tactical operations in remote and high-threat areas. The Texas Rangers oversee DPS tactical operations, which include Ranger Recon teams, the DPS Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team, and six Regional Special Response Teams (SRT).

D. Logistics and Planning

Logistical and Planning Experts Permanently Assigned: 4

Logistical and Planning Experts Temporarily Deployed to OST: 4

Total Personnel Strength: 8

E. Intelligence and Information Sharing

The Joint Operations Intelligence Centers (JOIC) centralize all of the border incident data across 53 counties and 171 law enforcements agencies to provide a shared view of the threat picture and trending patterns.

Joint Operations Intelligence Centers: 6    

Texas Rangers: 2

DPS Border Liaison Officers: 6

State Guard Personnel: 35

HQ Intelligence Analysts Permanently Assigned: 10

Border Region Intelligence Analysts Permanently Assigned: 11

Intelligence Analysts Temporarily Deployed to OST: 4

Total Personnel Strength: 68

F. Communications

Communications Operators Permanently Assigned: 24

Communications Operators Temporarily Deployed to OST: 4

Total Personnel Strength: 28

(III) Targeting the Smuggling Infrastructure

The arrests of members and associates of smuggling groups and criminal networks operating in the border region, such as cartel operatives, statewide and regional gangs, transnational criminal gangs, wanted and convicted felons, and criminal aliens, degrades the smuggling infrastructure and increases community safety.

Special Agents Permanently Assigned: 167

Special Agents Temporarily Deployed to OST: 25

Additional Overtime FTE Equivalents: 61

Total Agent Strength: 253

Inter-Agency Targeting Team (ITT): 5 U.S. Border Patrol Agents, 2 DPS Special Agents, 1 Trooper, 1 DPS Intelligence Analyst

(IV) Targeting Border Corruption

The Mexican cartels seek to corrupt individuals and institutions on both sides of the border to support their smuggling operations. Successful investigations degrade the cartels’ smuggling ability and serves as an important deterrent to those who would betray public trust and the rule of law.

Texas Rangers Permanently Assigned*:   45

Texas Rangers Temporarily Deployed to OST: 7

Additional Overtime FTE Equivalents: 17

Total Personnel Strength: 69

*Texas Rangers also assist local law enforcement agencies in the investigation of major crimes such as homicides, kidnappings, robberies and sexual assaults.

1,214 FTE assigned personnel plus 425 additional overtime FTE equivalents. DPS Officers temporarily deployed to the border work 12-14 hour shifts with no days off to increase coverage.

Total DPS FTE support to OST Operations: 1,763

*Does not include the number of DPS Special Operations Group Personnel assigned to border tactical missions.

 

DPS Operational Activities

Criminal/High Threat Criminal Arrests in the Border Region

Last 60 days

(11/15-12/15)

Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) Operation total (6/14-12/15)
Texas Highway Patrol High Threat Criminal Arrests 300 1,893 2,768
Total Criminal Arrests 2,003 12,207 17,487
DPS Special Agents High Threat Criminal Arrests 66 726 1,054
Total Criminal Arrests 284 2,094 3,169
Texas Rangers High Threat Criminal Arrests 37 263 399
DPS Total High Threat Criminal Arrests 403 2,882 4,221
Total Criminal Arrests 2,324 14,564 21,055

Note: Felony DWI, intoxication manslaughter and other serious traffic offenses, as well as Illegal Alien detentions and referrals to U.S. Border Patrol are not included in the arrest statistics above.

Public Corruption Arrests in the Border Region

Last 60 days

(11/15-12/15)

Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) Operation total (6/14-12/15)
Texas Rangers 23 50 75

DPS Marine Unit Operations

Last 60 days (11/15-12/15) 244
Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) 1,460
Operation total (6/14-12/15) 2,232

DPS Aviation Operations

Hours Flown Last 60 days (11/15-12/15) 897
Hours Flown Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) 5,583
Hours Flown Operation total (6/14-12/15) 8,735

DPS Tactical Operations

Last 60 days (11/15-12/15) 337
Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) 1,553
Operation total (6/14-12/15) 2,325

DPS Apprehension Support to U.S. Border Patrol

Last 60 days

(11/15-12/15)

Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) Operation total (6/14-12/15)
Illegal Alien Detections and Interdiction Assistance
Cameras 14,435 59,677 81,007
Aviation 374 2,536 4,108
Tactical Marine Unit 72 425 607
Illegal Alien Detentions and Referrals
Tactical Marine Unit 183 1,312 2,102
Texas Highway Patrol* 132
Total Apprehension Support to U.S. Border Patrol 15,196 63,950 87,824

*DPS did not capture Texas Highway Patrol Illegal Alien Detections and Referrals prior to December 1, 2015 and is now being captured state-wide.

Value of Drugs Seized by DPS in the Border Region*

DPS Only
Last 60 days (11/15-12/15) $76,718,788
Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) $646,550,290
Operation total (6/14-12/15) $1,273,452,151

*These totals do not include seizures where DPS provided direct support to another agency.

Value of Drugs by Type by DPS in the Border Region * (6/14 – Present)

Marijuana Cocaine Methamphetamine Heroin
DPS Only $1,039,599,748 $141,637,416 $69,446,452 $22,768,535

*These totals do not include seizures where DPS provided direct support to another agency.

Currency Seized by DPS in the Border Region*

DPS Only
Last 60 days (11/15-12/15) $1,752,084
Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) $16,159,180
Operation total (6/14-12/15) $20,224,724

*These totals do not include seizures where DPS provided direct support to another agency.

 

Smuggling Trends

The Texas Legislature provides funding to centralize the collection and sharing of border incident data across all jurisdictions in the border region, which comprises local, state, and federal agencies across 53 counties and more than 171 separate law enforcement agencies in the border region.

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U.S. Border Patrol IA Apprehensions in the Border Region

FY 2016 (10/15-12/15)* 70,887
FY 2015** 221,684
FY 2014** 341,132

*Unofficial U.S. Border Patrol statistics. **CBP reconciled apprehensions. Data includes El Paso Sector, which comprises parts of TX and NM.

U.S. Border Patrol Family Unit Apprehensions in the Border Region*

FY 2016 (10/15-12/15) 17,943
FY 2015 32,949
FY 2014 61,605

*CBP reconciled apprehensions. Data includes El Paso Sector, which comprises parts of TX and NM.

U.S. Border Patrol Unaccompanied Alien Children Apprehensions in the Border Region*

FY 2016 (10/15-12/15) 13,680
FY 2015 31,109
FY 2014 58,312

*CBP reconciled apprehensions. Data includes El Paso Sector, which comprises parts of TX and NM.

 

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Value of Drugs Seized in the Border Region

Last 60 days (11/15-12/15) $1,073,593,529
Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) $6,840,501,067
Operation total (6/14-12/15) $10,976,463,220

Note: The above border region statistics represent local, state and federal seizures.

 

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Currency Seized in the Border Region

Last 60 days (11/15-12/15) $3,132,990
Last 12 months (01/15-12/15) $28,215,108
Operation total (6/14-12/15) $37,232,652

Note: The above border region statistics represent local, state and federal seizures.

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