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theodore M I R A L D I mpa ... editor, publisher, writer. katherine molé mfa ... art director
Thursday, July 31, 2014
‘Disturbing trend’ of attacks against border security by drug gangs, human traffickers
EXCLUSIVE: A game warden hit in the head with a rock while trying to seize a raft. Police officers wounded in an hours-long standoff with a gang member wanted for murder. Criminals spewing obscenities and death threats at local cops before asking for – and receiving – medical treatment.
And that was just last week.
A weekly report distributed by a Texas state agency to senior law enforcement officials paints a grim picture of the Mexican border, where authorities regularly confront illegal immigrant gang members and draw automatic gunfire from across the Rio Grande, and where local, state and federal authorities fight a never-ending battle against drug smugglers.
The most recent Border Operations Sector Assessment report compiled by the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Border Security Operations Center, dated July 25 and obtained by FoxNews.com, details local and federal authorities encountering smugglers carrying millions of dollars’ worth of marijuana, cocaine and methamphetamine, some of which was found in vehicles filled with biblical passages and religious items; federal agents being assaulted and shot at; gang members brazenly approaching people in their homes; and ranch workers witnessing men crossing into the U.S. wearing camouflage and carrying long guns and automatic weapons.
"In recent weeks the traffic appears to have slowed slightly, yet assaults on law enforcement have increased. This is a disturbing trend that needs to be addressed,” Chris Cabrera, vice president of the National Border Patrol Union, Rio Grande Valley Sector, told FoxNews.com.
“It is paramount that we get this problem under control. It is evident that we need more agents in the field to address the various threats posed to law enforcement as well as to our nation."
The Austin-based Border Security Operations Center serves as the focal point for the six Joint Operations and Intelligence Centers located along Texas’ border with Mexico. Officials there analyze intelligence from state, local and federal law enforcement agencies in an effort to facilitate communication among them.
In the week of July 16-23 alone, according to the report, U.S. authorities apprehended 6,028 illegal immigrants, 4,152 of whom were not from Mexico. Most came from Central America. But there also were people from Russia, Morocco, China, Cuba and India, among other nations.
Cabrera, the union rep for the Rio Grande Valley Sector, the most heavily trafficked portion of the border, was shown a copy of the report by FoxNews.com. He contends the increase in attacks against law enforcement and the compilation of such events--including the game warden assault that occurred in Cabrera's sector -- should have been shared with him and his colleagues. But only higher-up officials receive the weekly reports, he said.
A spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety declined to respond on the record; Border Patrol did not return FoxNews.com's request for comment.
The 83-page report for July 16-23 reveals, among other things, that authorities seized $478,879 in U.S. currency, recovered more than seven tons of marijuana (street value: $6.35 million) and turned up more than a million dollars’ worth of cocaine and methamphetamine.
Most of the marijuana was found in an abandoned stash house, resulting in no arrests, while most of the other drugs were found inside vehicles stopped by law enforcement.
The report also revealed Texas Parks and Wildlife game wardens routinely encountered illegal immigrants and gang members, and detained hundreds to be turned over to Border Patrol agents. One reported being hit in the head with a rock while trying to seize a raft used to ferry illegal immigrants across the river. “A Game Warden attempted to seize a raft and was assaulted on the head with a rock that was thrown from the MX river bank,” the report reads. “The subject surrounded himself with children to avoid counter measures. Wardens patrolling the river heard approximately 15 rds of automatic gunfire in MX. A total of 55 IAs were detained,” the report says.
Game wardens also reported seeing people wearing black uniforms and armed with rifles on the Mexican side of the river, and they said gunshots from automatic weapons were heard throughout the night on at least four different occasions.
Last week FoxNews.com reported that Border Patrol agents patrolling the Rincon Peninsula, south of Mission, Texas, and across the river from Reynosa, Mexico, had been forced to run for cover when rounds of .50 caliber gunfire were shot from the Mexican side to the U.S. side of the Rio Grande. Without any protection from such high-caliber rounds, the agents were forced to hide until the barrage stopped. Federal and state sources who work in the area said they believe the gunfire continued for about 15 minutes.
“This happens all the time. We’re out on the border, often we are alone, and all you hear is gunfire,” a Border Patrol agent working an overnight shift along the Rio Grande said last week.
“We are sitting ducks, and it’s only getting worse. Every night, it gets worse.”
Sources interviewed on the border in recent weeks echoed his statement and said they believe the real situation along the border is not being told. All asked that their names not be revealed, due to strict orders not to speak with the media. FoxNews.com has confirmed that senior Border Patrol officials have sent out memos to employees warning them that they can be fired for speaking to reporters.
On July 16, game wardens found a floating body at the Hidalgo County Pump Station. The body of a child was found floating in the river the previous week, too, sources told FoxNews.com.
The Border Security Operations Center report also includes encounters with gang members and cartel gunmen during the same week, including:
- The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office arrested 32 members of gangs that included the Valluco, Texas Chicano Brothers, Sureño 13, Texas Syndicate, Tango Blast and Latin Kings.
- U.S. Border Patrol agents detained a dozen suspected gang members trying to cross the border, including alleged members of the infamous Salvadoran gang MS-13.
- A homeowner called Rio Grande City police to report three men who said they’d crossed into the U.S. were at her door asking for water. When cops arrived, one admitted to being an active MS-13 gang member.
- Two Edinburg, Texas, officers were shot and wounded by a Texas Syndicate gang member wanted for murder during a multiagency, hours-long standoff in La Joya.
- American reporters were threatened by rifle-toting smugglers from across the river.
- Dozens of photos and mugshots of illegal immigrants – some of them juveniles – proudly displaying gang-related tattoos.
The report also notes significant events in Mexico. A section included reports of mass graves found; an oil pipeline explosion likely due to illegal siphoning; cartel extortion of migrants heading toward the U.S. border, imposing tolls on all those who use the highways; and the murders of Mexican law enforcement agents.
Also of note: Salvadorans riding a train called “The Beast” to the U.S. border reportedly told authorities they had been told to take the long way into America – through New Mexico, not Texas, which is the far more direct route – because they had heard that Texas Gov. Rick Perry was sending 1,000 National Guardsmen down to help secure the border.