DHS Is Failing to Facilitate Aerial Border Surveillance, Says Texas Governor

CBP AMO Helicopter on border
File Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has again requested that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) request aerial border surveillance from the Department of Defense (DOD) as part of the now-halted Operation Phalanx.

“An endorsement of the success of Operation Phalanx does not constitute a specific request to DOD,” Governor Abbott wrote  in a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske on Wednesday.

While the DHS has claimed they have done all they can do, Governor Abbott rebutted that position in the harshly worded letter. “I share the goal of smarter and more efficient border enforcement; however, DHS and CBP’s discontinuation of Operation Phalanx, along with recent reports that CBP is leaving illegal immigrants in border communities with no coordination with state or local authorities, demonstrates otherwise,” the governor wrote.

Breitbart Texas reported in November that the DHS and its subordinate unit, CBP had failed to request continuation of flight hours by Army National Guard helicopters funded by the DOD under Operation Phalanx.  At that time, Governor Abbott and Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) put the department on notice writing, “Any decrease in aerial observation is not only imprudent, but contradicts the very mission of border security enforcement.”

Abbott’s new letter states that DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson said in an exit interview that the DHS and Obama Administration had “done as much we could within our existing legal authority to fix the immigration system, make it more fair, and make our enforcement smarter and more efficient.”

The governor stated that Operation Phalanx has been universally recognized as a “powerful coordination tool to detect and interdict the flood of illegal cartel activity flowing through our border.”

“I am particularly dismayed by DHS and CBP’s discontinuation of the operation despite the availability of congressionally approved funding,” Abbott wrote.

House Homeland Security Chairman Mike McCaul (R-TX) joined with other Texas congressional leaders and Governor Abbott in November. “We cannot let our guard down on our southern border. I have been closely monitoring the National Guard’s efforts to support U.S. Customs and Border Protection through Operation Phalanx,” in an email to Breitbart Texas at that time. “I have been in contact with senior officials at the Department of Homeland Security to ensure funding continues for this vital security and enforcement endeavor, especially in south Texas.”

Breitbart Texas spoke with staff members on the House Homeland Security Committee in December who confirmed that Congress had fully funded the program through 2017, but the DHS had simply not requested the flight hours.

The Texas governor reiterated his concerns about the shutdown of the valuable aerial surveillance program and other actions by the DHS that adversely affect the security of Texas.

“Compounding the concern along the border is new and alarming information regarding an uptick in activities related to CBP dropping illegal immigrants at bus stops in the City of Laredo and other towns in Texas with no coordination with state or local authorities,” the letter from Abbott continued.

“Your department’s continued unwillingness to effectively coordinate with state and local officials shows DHS and CBP are either unable or unwilling to do so. That’s simply unacceptable.” Abbott concluded.  “I request you provide local, state and congressional leaders in Texas information about the influx of illegal immigrants, the criminal histories of those being let go in border communities and any meaningful attempts to ensure they are unable to skirt the immigration enforcement process.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas. He is a founding member of the Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.

Gov Abbott’s Letter to CBP Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske – January 2017


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