WESLACO, Texas (Border Report) — The Texas Military Department, which includes National Guard units, has built miles of “temporary” wire border fencing on private borderlands in the Del Rio area, officials said Thursday, adding that it could be extended to other parts of the state’s border with Mexico.
Lt. Col. Rodney Kelley, director of training and military operations for the Texas Military Department, said the agency has already built 3 miles of border fencing and is ramping up its teams and production to complete “a quarter-mile to one-half mile” per day going forward, he told Border Report.
The project started in June and is in collaboration with the Texas Department of Public Service, and under the direction of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who during a Border Security Summit on June 10 in Del Rio announced that the state would be “building border barriers; some will be built immediately.”
The 9-foot or 10-foot wire fences, with special security objects on top, are being built with employees and engineers from the Texas Military Department, which is composed of three branches of the military; the Texas Army National Guard, the Texas Air National Guard and the Texas State Guard. And it is being done with state funds approved by the 2021 Legislature, Kelley told Border Report.
It is “specifically to safeguard Texas and their property, their personnel,” Kelley said during a media briefing Thursday at the DPS Regional Office in the South Texas city of Weslaco, where officials walked through the recent surge by DPS troopers and other law enforcement agencies to the remote border town of Del Rio.
Kelley said the project began in June and started with just one unit, but this week increased to two teams, and should increase to 12 teams within the month that will actively seek out private lands and permission from landowners to build the private fences atop.
He said that “an additional 1,500 soldiers will be flowing into the region over the next four weeks,” many to assist with the fence building.
“That will allow us the abilities to respond to multiple locations and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of some of these construction projects we’re doing,” Kelley said. “We work hand in hand with DPS to find the right areas, the right places where we need to do the construction and to get the effects and support that they need.”
The fence is called “temporary” and is not the height or made of the same thick metal bollards as the federal government’s border wall. But Kelley says it will deter migrants from crossing and “No Trespassing” signs will be prominently displayed throughout the fence line — which is a legal prerequisite in order to charge migrants with illegal trespassing, as Abbott has directed in June.
And one important distinction is this fence is being built very close to the Rio Grande.
Every landowner signs a contract with Kelley’s team and he said they work to adjust the fence height, length and necessary gates in order to make it as accessible for the landowner, or farmer.
The announcement was made during a DPS briefing in which officials discussed Operation Lone Star, which is headed by DPS and the Texas Division of Emergency Management and has surged 1,000 troopers and Guards units to the border, especially hundreds in the past couple of weeks to Del Rio.
Since Operation Lone Star began in March, DPS have made 964 arrests on criminal trespass charges and have apprehended and referred over 144,000 migrants to U.S. Border Patrol, DPS Regional Director Victor Escalon said.
Sirene Shebaya, executive director of the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild, on Thursday called Operation Lone Star “a racist and vile program.”
She said it is “a general violation of peoples’ rights through arrests.”
Kelley said the Texas Military currently has 40 armored humvees in Del Rio, and has “pre-staged” 70 additional humvees with 400 soldiers to the Rio Grande Valley “to ensure that we have additional assets should anything like this happen again.”