In the closing days of the Obama Administration, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has shut down a critical Border aerial surveillance program.
DHS officials quietly shutdown the military aerial support program known as Operation Phalanx, Watchdog.org reported. The program was created by President Obama in 2010 to provide National Guard resources to monitor drug smuggling operations and illegal border crossings by immigrants and human smugglers.
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. “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.”
Following the DHS’s decision to completely close the program, Representative Cuellar renewed his objections. He is now requesting the support of other members of the Texas Congressional Delegation including House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX), Representative John Carter (R-TX), and Senator John Cornyn (R-TX).
Governor Abbott also responded to the report by Watchdog.org with a message on Twitter. “Obama is doing everything he can to open the border,” the governor tweeted. “January 20th can’t come soon enough.” He added that his deployment of Texas National Guard members will continue.
Obama is doing everything he can to open the border. January 20th can’t come soon enough. National Guard remains. https://t.co/N3qF8LhWTy
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 18, 2016
Chairman McCaul also responded to Watchdog.org inquiry saying, “Over the last several years, Congress has provided billions of dollars to secure the borders, but without an end goal in mind.”
The DHS, which has a history of lying to the public about the actual situation along the Mexican border, asserted that illegal crossing have declined along the Texas-Mexico border, Watchdog.org reported. Breitbart Texas has reported extensively throughout the year about the increasing numbers of border crossing apprehensions – particularly the apprehensions of Incomplete Family Unit Aliens (FMUA) and Unaccompanied Alien Children (UAC).
In the months leading up to the election of President-Elect Donald Trump, immigrants began flooding across the border at record numbers. Breitbart Texas reported earlier this month that in October 2016, FMUA apprehensions increased by 37 percent. UAC apprehensions were up by 19 percent, and total apprehensions were up by 17 percent.
Of the total number of family units apprehended all along our southwest border with Mexico (13,124), 8,726 were apprehended in the RGV Sector. A total of 11,183 FMUAs were apprehended in Texas alone. An FMUA is defined by CBP officials as “children who are apprehended with one or more parent or legal guardian.” That means the 13,124 FMUAs apprehended in October represent at least 26,248 people.
A total of 6,754 UACs were also apprehended in October. Of those, 65 percent (4,093) were apprehended in the RGV sector and 5,518 in all of Texas.
Apprehensions in Texas have increased to the point where DHS officials pulled front-line border patrol out of sectors that were seeing their own surge of immigrant apprehensions to man processing stations in the Rio Grande Valley Sector.
Border Patrol officials announced on November 12 that 150 agents will be temporarily be transferred from the Tucson, San Diego, and Del Rio Sectors to the McAllen and Weslaco Centralized Processing Centers. Their duty will be to increase the screening and processing of the unauthorized immigrants with a focus on UACs and FMUAs , according to information obtained from Supervisory Border Patrol Agent Marlene Castro by Breitbart Texas.
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.org 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.”
Operation Phalanx utilized Nation Guard UH-72 Lakota helicopters specially equipped with night vision and other surveillance equipment. The crew consists of a two pilots and a sensor operator, National Guard officials reported.
“This aircraft’s capabilities make it a unique asset in the Army aviation inventory and perfect for this mission,” said a pilot with the Texas National Guard, who has been on the mission for six months. “It has a communications package that none of the other Army aircraft have that allows us to communicate on secure Border Patrol and other law enforcement channels. This communication capability, along with a high-powered searchlight and cameras with infrared capabilities, make it the total package.”
The shutdown of Operation Phalanx comes as Secretary Johnson’s term of service is about to come to an end. He will be replaced in January by a DHS Secretary selected by President-Elect Trump who has promised more aggressive action in securing the nation’s southern border.