The Rio Grande Valley has always prioritized keeping our community safe. Border security remains a part of that effort. But lately, the term “border security” has been used as a political football to polarize folks. That’s a real shame. 

Those of us blessed to live in the Rio Grande Valley know our communities are safe. But when it comes to securing the border, we must always be vigilant, which includes gathering data, maintaining superior communication and proper staffing; and we must possess the ability to adapt to changing political and economic threats driving immigration surges. 

One tool in our tool belt that keeps our communities safe is the Texas Transnational Intelligence Center (TTIC), authorized by state legislation in 2015 and opened in 2017 right here in McAllen. But I bet you haven’t heard about it because it hasn’t filtered through the polarizing propaganda about our border. We are safer because the TTIC allows federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to share real-time criminal information.

South Texas ranchers have had undocumented people across our land for centuries – it’s a fact of life along the border town. When I was growing up on my family’s ranch, we always kept food and water on us in case we came across any migrants on our land. They’d always ask us which way was north, and they’d go on their way without any problems. 

The last few years have created new challenges. There are more people from a variety of countries trying to cross the southern border because humanitarian crises have driven them from their homes. Human trafficking has caused mass deaths, sexual assault, and chases that endanger lives and property. Drug trafficking and the violence associated with it are a real threat. 

Illegal border crossings are not okay. Our federal government must address immigration reform and help us keep our communities safe. It’s complicated, but we must work together to accomplish these goals, just like we do at the TTIC. 

Before the TTIC, law enforcement entities struggled to identify criminals who moved from county to county. In the past, a criminal could be pulled over in Cameron County and given a traffic ticket, but Cameron County didn’t know that that person had a warrant in Hidalgo County. Their computer systems weren’t talking to each other, and if they were talking, they weren’t talking fast enough. Thanks to the TTIC, the more than 1,574 different law enforcement agencies in Texas can share essential information so that these criminals are apprehended. 

I am proud to have spearheaded this initiative.  The TTIC popped into my mind when I drove past the old McAllen police station on 1501 W. Pecan Blvd, McAllen, Texas in the spring of 2015. I knew we were getting $800 hundred million from the state legislature for border security. I thought to myself, what if we could transform that abandoned building into the physical location for a collaborative effort that brought different law enforcement entities together under one room to monitor crime across Texas?

We were already in the middle of the legislative session so I had to move quickly. I reached out to our Police Chief here in McAllen, Victor Rodriguez, and the Sheriff, Eddie Guerra, who is also my cousin. They loved the idea. Soon after, I convinced Dennis Bonnen, Chair of the Border Security Committee and future Speaker of the House to amend HB 11 to include the TTIC. 

I’m proud of the Texas Transnational Information Center (TTIC). I wanted to do something positive and necessary here in the Valley with the $800 million coming our way for border security that would make our communities safer.  It’s an impressive facility. Construction began in late January 2017 and the building was soon operational. Approximately 120 law enforcement personnel can be in the building at one time and large computer screens help them monitor real-time traffic and crime across counties. 

Various law enforcement offices and elected officials on both sides of the aisle worked together to pass the bill that created the TTIC. We put polarizing politics aside and focused on the bread-and-butter issue of keeping our community safe. I hope we can continue to work together for the good of all.

Editor’s Note: The above guest column was penned by state Rep. R.D. ’Bobby’ Guerra of McAllen. The column appears in The Rio Grande Guardian International News Service with the permission of the author. Guerra can be reached by email via: [email protected].

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