The Texas Department of Public Safety is nearing its goal of permanently assigning 250 additional troopers to the state’s border with Mexico. And after initially concentrating its efforts in the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas, the agency is now expanding its target area to include West Texas and Big Bend.
By the end of August, the DPS academy will have graduated 209 of the 250 border troopers required by House Bill 11, an omnibus border-security measure passed in 2015 mandating the increase in staffing levels.
Agency spokesman Tom Vinger said most of the new recruits are in the agency’s Region 3, which extends from Val Verde County to Cameron County on the Gulf Coast and includes the McAllen, Laredo and Corpus Christi districts.
Of the 123 troopers that graduated earlier this year, about half were assigned to Region 3 and 20 to Region 4, which spans from El Paso County to Terrell County. That’s in addition to other troopers assigned in West Texas to help fill vacancies.
Extending the border deployments to West Texas troubles some lawmakers, who argue that part of the Texas border isn’t experiencing the same surge of undocumented immigrants that Hidalgo and Cameron counties have seen since 2014. Lawmakers said that wave of unauthorized entries justified the unprecedented allotment of $800 million for additional border security the Legislature approved in 2015.
Critics argued that the border was safe and that the immigrants were fleeing violence and meant Texans no harm. But lawmakers said the U.S. Border Patrol could be distracted by the surge and that DPS was needed to fill in the gaps.
State Sen. José Rodriguez, D-El Paso, said that’s not happening in his district.