Lawless Border: Obama Admin Abruptly Grounds Drones
Texas officials question DHS after agency quietly shuts down aerial surveillance program
Three top Texas government officials, including one Democrat, are questioning the Department of Homeland Security’s border security measures after a report showed the agency ended an aerial surveillance program on the Mexican border.
Operation Phalanx, which was fully funded through 2017, was quietly shut down by the DHS, according to a recent report by watchdog.org. The aerial surveillance program intercepted illegal crossings and drugs on the border of Mexico.
“At a time when we’re seeing increases in the number of apprehensions … it is unjustifiable to cut this support for border security.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Republican Sen. John Cornyn, and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) in a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johhson requested information on aerial-based border security measures the agency is employing — especially in light of an uptick in migrant crossings this month and this year so far that are reportedly higher than last year’s crossings.
Their letter on Tuesday also pointed out that the DHS had not requested any flight hours from the Department of Defense, which supports the program, for the calendar year 2017.
“Given the continuing surge of migrants along the Southern Border beyond FY 2015 numbers and a large uptick in apprehensions already for the month of November 2016, we believe DHS should be requesting more surveillance and security resources, not less,” Abbott, Cornyn, and Cuellar wrote to Johnson.
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“Given that Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine is currently 12 percent below its goal for air interdiction agents this cut in DOD support is extremely prudent,” they wrote.
Cuellar said in an email to LifeZette it is “unjustifiable” to cut this support.
“Senator Cornyn, Governor Abbott and myself, in a bipartisan manner, wrote this letter to Secretary Johnson because, at a time when we’re seeing increases in the number of apprehensions of Central Americans, Haitians, Cubans and migrants from Africa and Asia, it is unjustifiable to cut this support for border security,” said the congressman.
“I live on the border and represent an area that is greatly affected by illegal immigration. Any decrease in aerial observation on our southern border therefore goes against the mission of border security enforcement,” said Cuellar.
This is not the first time the government leaders have expressed concern to the agency on its aerial surveillance measures. In February, the government leaders also questioned why DHS had only requested half of its normal flight hours from the DOD — even though the program was also fully funded for the mission for calendar year 2016.
DHS acted after the officials questioned the agency’s lack of flight hours. “Taking into account the increase in apprehensions over 2015, DHS heeded our concerns and requested supplemental flight hours in June,” the letter stated.
Now the officials are asking the DHS for “immediate information on the metrics used to determine that a full cut in DOD aerial resource for Operation Phalanx would be sufficient to support our nation’s border security efforts.”
Texas has experienced the second-largest influx of legal and illegal immigrants, according to the Center for Immigration Studies. In a report published last month, CIS noted “states with the largest numerical increases in the number of immigrants from 2010 to 2015 were California (up 538,000) and Texas (up 529,000).”
The 2016 numbers, according to the Texas officials, continue to rise even beyond the 2015 numbers in the CIS report.
Cornyn did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Operation Phalanx began in July 2010, after an executive order signed by President Obama authorized up to 1,200 soldiers and airmen on the southwest border to support the Customs and Border Protection agency, according to the U.S. Army. In its first year, the National Guard helped seize more than 14,000 pounds of drugs, apprehend more than 7,000 illegal immigrants, and confiscate millions of dollars in illicit currency.
Operational Phalanx succeeded President Bush’s Operation Jump Start, which authorized up to 6,000 soldiers and airmen to protect the border.