Bipartisan Texas leaders called on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to restart the suspended border aerial surveillance program known as Operation Phalanx.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott and U.S. Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) joined with Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) in sending a letter to DHS officials demanding that the aerial border surveillance flights not only start back up, but increase in numbers. The call comes after Mr. Cuellar’s announcement last week that DHS officials halted Operation Phalanx flights despite being fully funded by Congress for FY 2017 to carry out the missions, Breitbart Texas reported.
“Given the continuing surge of migrants along the Southern Border beyond FY15 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,” Governor Abbott, Senator Cornyn and Congressman Cuellar write in the letter (attached below). “Given that Customs and Border Protection’s (CBP) Office of Air and Marine is currently 12 percent below its goal for air interdiction agents this cut in DoD support is extremely imprudent.”
Other Texas leaders have remained silent on the issue including House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX), Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R), and Rep. John Carter (R-TX) who were all asked for comments according to Watchdog.
Despite evidence to the contrary, DHS officials claimed they shut down the program because of a decrease in border crossing apprehensions. All evidence reported by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) shows border apprehensions continue to increase, especially in the numbers of Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC) and Family Unit Aliens (FMUA).
The numbers have increase so dramatically, Border Patrol officials have temporarily moved agents from some front-line locations to the Texas border sectors to aid in processing the children and families crossing the border. CBP officials announced this week, the opening of an overflow processing and holding facility near the Tornillo-Guadalupe Port of Entry in West Texas, Breitbart Texas reported.
Despite the fact that the program was fully funded for FY 2017 by Congress, the DHS began scaling back the program in January, Breitbart Texas reported. The move prompted an objection from Texas Governor Greg Abbott and U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX).
“Any decrease in aerial observation is not only imprudent, but contradicts the very mission of border security enforcement,” Abbott and Cuellar wrote in a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson at that time. “In order to ensure we are doing everything possible to effectively secure the border, we request immediate information on the metrics used to determine that a 50 percent reduction in aerial resources would be sufficient to support this important border security operation.”
By all accounts, Operation Phalanx has been an effective tool at helping to keep the border crisis from being even more dramatic that it already is. Watchdog reported that in the Laredo Sector alone, “Operation Phalanx accounted for 10,559 apprehensions and 4,007 ‘turnbacks’ from March 2012 to December 2015. Phalanx was credited with seizing 12,851 pounds of narcotics during the period.”
“At this time, DHS has not requested any flight hours to support Operation Phalanx for calendar year 2017,” Governor Abbott wrote in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. The letter by Governor Abbott, Senator Cornyn and Congressman Cuellar requested that DHS identify which resources will be utilized to backfill the gaps left by a reduction in the aerial resources used to support the nation’s border security efforts.
“In light of the rise in apprehensions since 2015, the request for supplemental flight hours, and the staffing shortages facing CBP, we request immediate information on the metrics used to determine that a full cut in DoD aerial resources for Operation Phalanx would be sufficient to support our nation’s border security efforts,” the letter concludes.