The cascading effects of death, destruction, and tragedy as a result of not holding the line at our border are too numerous to count. One of those effects that goes unreported in the national media is the number of people who are endangered in south Texas from high-speed chases between law enforcement and cartel smugglers at our border.
On Wednesday, two innocent bystanders were killed when an alien smuggler transporting a group of illegal aliens in a Ford Explorer lost control of the vehicle during a high-speed chase with Texas state troopers and crashed into innocent motorists on the other side of U.S. Highway 83 in La Joya. Leonel Martinez Jr., 45, and Aurora Sanchez, 69, were in the Nissan that got struck. Now two Americans are dead, five illegal alien passengers are injured, and the smuggler is still on the loose because he managed to survive the crash and bail out on the side of the road.
Last week, I wrote about the concerns of some ranchers that our government employs a “depth in defense” strategy of waiting for cartel smugglers to cross into the country and then attempting to apprehend them. The problem with not putting the Border Patrol or the military on the border line itself is that the cartels have already gamed out how to succeed at evading the checkpoints once they successfully step foot on our soil with the use of pickups and “bailouts.”
Jaseson Jones, retired captain with the Texas Department of Public Safety, commanded a counter-smuggling team in south Texas and dealt with this problem all the time. “Bailouts are a non-recorded crime incident which are a direct result of an unsecure border,” said Jones. “The way it works is after a vehicle is stolen, it will be driven to the border by those in the network already in our country. People who just crossed into the United States illegally between the ports of entry (POE) will be stacked on top of one another in the cab and in the bed. It is very common to have twenty or thirty people in a truck. The goal is to make it to a stash house before law enforcement can intercept it. If law enforcement locates the vehicle, a high-speed pursuit will be initiated. Often the smuggler will drive off the road and … crash, with the occupants bailing out and running in every direction. Hence the term bailout.”
The bailout strategy and all the dangers inherent in it are another reason why the border needs to be secured at the line itself, according to Jones. “The solution to stop these incidents and many other types of non-recorded crimes that occur as a direct result of an unsecure border is for Border Patrol to hold the line across the southwest border. Stop responding to sensor hits and utilizing an outdated investigative model.”
The effects of the cartel activity being allowed to violate our sovereignty well into our territory are felt by counties that aren’t even right on the border. In an interview with CR, Sheriff Benny Martinez of Brooks County, Texas, just north of Hidalgo County, where this latest smuggling wreck fatality took place, noted that he deals with the secondary effects of the smugglers getting in to the country even 65-70 miles from the border. He believes that when you don’t place more assets at the border itself, it turns the rest of the counties into border counties. “We’ve been playing a losing battle for quite some time by not holding the line at the border and putting more resources and infrastructure into stopping the smugglers at the border itself,” he said.
He explained how the cartels send down their existing associates in big cities like Houston and San Antonio and pick up these new illegal crossers and drug traffickers before Border Patrol can apprehend them further up at the checkpoints. Then they travel north into his county and bail out before the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, the last CBP checkpoint in Texas headed north, and disappear into the brush. This forces federal, state, and local law enforcement to expend a tremendous amount of resources to get a few criminals, often creating dangerous situations with high-speed chases. We wind up catching few of them and wasting resources; innocent people get killed in the process, and the cartels get what they want, all the while extending the border problems very far north into our territory.
“I’ve been personally involved in these pursuits many times where the driver gets away, but innocent people are killed as a result of them evading police presence,” said the sheriff of what should be a quiet county of 7,000 people. “We’ve had three of these fatal incidents in my county, 65-70 miles from the border. It always seems like the cartel drivers survive and get away and kill innocent people. As long as the border is not secured as it should be, that is going to continue. We need a barrier right near the river and the personnel with it where we can intercept them before they get on conveyances and vehicles and before they get put in stash houses and held against their will. These are humans we’re talking about, and they are getting killed as a result of an insecure border.”
Without this infrastructure, personnel, and proactive strategy to stop the cartel smuggling at the river, his county, which should be a quiet rural haven for ranchers, becomes a transnational criminal smuggling zone. “They evade our checkpoints by means of walking through the brush and get picked up in certain other areas. Without enough agents on the ground to intercept them at the line, we’re going to have these dangerous pursuits. And the criminal element knows that, more than likely, they will get their load through. Just 10 days ago, we had a standoff with a truck who was going 130 miles down highway 281 and they got away. We have no idea what was in the vehicle, and without the correct resources at the border, this is going to continue.”
Sherriff Martinez also lamented the dead bodies that his county has to deal with when they are left behind to die in the harsh brush on private lands. According to the latest Border Operations Sector Assessment put out by the Texas Rangers, “From 2009 to the present, human remains have been found in Brooks County 641 times.” The sheriff feels that those in Washington have no clue what they are dealing with in south Texas. “Because of the line not being supported between the ports of entry, the deaths, crashes, and stash houses will continue.”
Here is a short report from Fox Houston in 2014 on what Brooks County must deal with in terms of bailouts and bodies and how it taxes their resources and harms private land.
Jaeson Jones, who used to command the Texas Ranger division that published the Border Operations Sector Assessment, told me that they are seeing cartel bailouts occurring “as far north as Oklahoma.”
As the Rio Grande Sector continues to experience record traffic, more than 1,500 individuals in one 24-hour period this week, all the counties just north of the border will continue to experience the residual effects. As the border agents are busy processing the Central Americans, the cartels have a lot of latitude to send in their loads and dangerous criminals to burden the rest of Texas’ state and local law enforcement.
Consequently, while all American communities are dealing with the effects of the cartels and criminal aliens, counties well north of the border are also dealing with the direct primary and secondary effects of the actual smuggling in its first cross-border stage. This is because, as Jones notes, we treat the cartels and illegal immigration like “any other domestic investigative crime rather than an invasion.”
Again, we need to build a wall, but we also need to build a will as a nation: A will to do everything it takes to secure every inch of our sovereignty at the line of scrimmage while also empowering ICE to deport the cartel networks in the bigger cities that help facilitate these smugglers from farther north. We have criminal alien networks running rampant in the cities and new illegal aliens with free rein to walk through our border to get picked up before they are ever discovered by agents.
We need the military at the border until the wall is fully built. As Jones told me, “In areas where manpower is not available or limited, Border Patrol will need to collaborate with private, local, state, federal, and Department of Defense partners or do whatever is required to gain operational control of our southwest border.”
Obviously, the wall, as I’ve noted before, will not help one iota against the lawfare of Central Americans surrendering themselves for amnesty, but it will help combat this sort of cartel smuggling activity. Why should there be a 70-mile buffer zone of our own land exposed to the cartel activities? Shouldn’t every inch of our territory be safe from foreign threats, and shouldn’t the buffer zone be on the southern side of the border? We secure other country’s borders. Why not our own?
Daniel Horowitz is a senior editor of Conservative Review. Follow him on Twitter @RMConservative.