RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas – Starr County Judge Eloy Vera says local residents are getting sick and tired of the heavy DPS presence.
Drive along U.S. 83 and they are parked every 100 or 200 feet, he said. Unless there is a speed chase they have nothing to do but write tickets for motorists with tail lights not working, the judge said.
“Our people are complaining that they are getting stopped and getting cited. So, even though that was not the purpose of DPS being down here, and I was assured that they were not going to be stopping people and giving a lot of warnings, that is what is happening,” said Vera, pictured above. “I think a lot of our people are being cited.”
DPS is once again showing a heavy presence in Starr County thanks to Gov. Greg Abbott. Under Operation Lone Star, he ordered the department to send down a lot more troopers to help with border security. However, the troopers do not have jurisdiction to do the work of Border Patrol agents. The only way they can help with border security, Vera said, is if there is a car chase and they find drug or human smugglers inside the vehicle.
“You can drive up and down 83 and they are just sitting there. Some of them are just 100 feet apart from each other and then they have other people just driving down 83. Other than stopping someone and having illegals or drugs, I don’t think it (Operation Lone Star) is having any affect at all,” Vera said.
Vera said there is another problem.
“The other problem this causes is on the warrant side. If someone has a warrant, and this is by statute, they (DPS) pick them up and they take them to the jail and that is putting a burden on our jail. Now, we don’t have beds for paying inmates because we have a bunch of ours.”
Vera said he wanted to reiterate that he is pro-law enforcement.
“I guess in a nutshell we certainly appreciate the law enforcement help that we are getting but again they must stick to what their mission is and that is to curtail drug and human trafficking. If someone has a lightbulb that is not working, there is not need to cite them or anyone else, in my opinion.”
The one good thing about having so many state troopers in Starr County, Vera said, is that they fill up the local restaurants and hotels.
“Our restaurants and hotels and those people, they love it because it is more business for us. But the average citizen that is barely making it, it is a big burden for them.”
Asked if the Starr County is becoming more militarized, like it was during the migration surges of 2014 and 2019, Vera said: “We have our sheriff, our CBP, now DPS… I do not want to come across as not pro-law enforcement. I am pro-law enforcement but it can be just too many.”
Vera made his comments in an interview with the Rio Grande Guardian following a town hall meeting hosted at South Texas College’s Starr County Campus by U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar. Although much of the conversation was about the new $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, Cuellar said he did want to hear what local folks had to say about the current surge in unaccompanied minors crossing the border.
“We do have a problem and I know everyone is aware of the situation we have. However, it really is overwhelming for us to try and resolve it,” Vera told the Rio Grande Guardian.
“I feel that the wall certainly is not going to stop it. CBP certainly don’t have the resources to stop it. A lot of those people are just coming across and turning themselves in. And that is creating chaos for them and for us.”
Vera said he would like to see Mexico do more to deter undocumented immigration on its southern border.
“My feelings on this is that we need help from Mexico. The federal government needs to apply some kind of pressure on Mexico so that they can stop some of this migration at the southern border of Mexico and if 40 or 50 percent still get across we can handle that. But, we cannot handle 100, 200 people going in at one time. It is just impossible for us to do that,” Vera said.
McAllen Mayor Dim Darling has also spoken about the recent influx of DPS troopers to the Rio Grande Valley. Appearing on a Zoom conversation with U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar that was hosted by the Texas Tribune, Darling shook his head and rolled his eyes when asked a question about DPS.
“I’ve always said they need social workers not DPS. And we have a lot of DPS officers. If you ride around near Chimney Park and all that, I feel sorry for them. Sitting out there and there really is not much for them to do from the standpoint they do not have jurisdiction,” Darling said.
Chimney Park in Mission is on the banks of the Rio Grande.
“If you really want to do it, at least maybe split it half DPS and half social workers. The social work could get done by the people that know how to do it and send the Border Patrol back out to protect the border like they want to do and they are paid and trained to do,” Darling said.
“It is just ridiculous. If you talk to the average Border Patrol person, they are miserable, they are not doing what they are supposed to do. They are not trained to take care of kids. They are not social workers.”
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