Texas Gov. Takes ‘Full Control’ of Eagle Pass Park After Border Chaos
Texas Gov. Takes ‘Full Control’ of Eagle Pass Park After Border Chaos

By Caden Pearson

Texas state authorities have taken control of a public park fronting the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, a southern border town that saw a massive spike in illegal crossings last month.

Eagle Pass Mayor Rolando Salinas said officials from the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) informed him on Wednesday morning that state authorities are “taking full control” of the park as part of an operation to combat unprecedented illegal border crossings.

“This is not something that we wanted,” Mr. Salinas said in a video live-streamed from Shelby Park on Facebook. “This is not something that we asked for as a city. I want to make that clear.”

Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, indicated that the measure is about strengthening deterrents for migrants making their way to the U.S.-Mexico border.

“As caravans of migrants are moving through Mexico toward the U.S. border, we are making clear that Texas will be a tough place to cross,” he said on X, formerly Twitter.

Two military vehicles can be seen in the video from Wednesday night, standing guard behind a newly erected gate blocking public access to the park.

Mr. Abbott signed a disaster declaration in 2021, launching Operation Lone Star in response to the Biden administration’s border policies, which critics have described as misguided and lax.

“They’re using that declaration to take full control, custody of Shelby Park,” the mayor said, noting that it comes after thousands of migrants illegally crossed the border into the United States at Eagle Pas last month.

The influx of illegal immigrants in December prompted the Biden administration to action, with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) temporarily suspending operations at international railway crossing bridges in two Texas cities.

Footage on social media showed a long line of immigrants at the Eagle Pass crossing. The U.S. Border Patrol said on Dec. 15 that over the past couple of weeks, it had encountered “continuous groups of migrants led by misinformation making illegal entry into the United States.”

The bridges in Eagle Pass and El Paso were closed on Dec. 18, while CBP redirected personnel to assist with taking illegal immigrants into custody, the agency said in a statement.

The agency said the measures were taken due to “a recent resurgence of smuggling organizations moving migrants through Mexico via freight trains.” CBP also partnered with Mexican authorities to curb illegal border crossings.

The town was inundated with around 12,000 illegal immigrants in December, according to Rep. Tony Gonzales, a Republican who represents Eagle Pass.

Since then, the number of illegal crossings has reduced, but on Wednesday, the mayor of Eagle Pass said that state officials told him the operation at Shelby Park was to prevent a future surge of illegal immigration and that the state was taking control of the park “indefinitely.”

Temporary barriers have been at Shelby Park since 2021, the Texas DPS told the Houston Chronicle in a statement.

“The Texas National Guard has maintained a presence with security points and temporary barrier in Shelby Park since 2021,” Texas DPS stated. “The current posture is to prepare for future illegal immigrant surges and to restrict access to organizations that perpetuate illegal immigrant crossings in the park and greater Eagle Pass area.”

A spokesperson for Mr. Abbott said the move is authorized under the 2021 disaster declaration.

“Texas is holding the line at our southern border with miles of additional razor wire and anti-climb barriers to deter and repel the record-high levels of illegal immigration invited by President Biden’s reckless open border policies,” Renae Eze said.

“Texas will continue to deploy Texas National Guard soldiers, DPS troopers, and more barriers, utilizing every tool and strategy to respond to President Biden’s ongoing border crisis.”

A Texas National Guard soldier installs additional razor wire at the U.S.-Mexico border in Eagle Pass, Texas on Dec. 20, 2023. (John Moore/Getty Images)

Last summer, Eagle Pass allowed state authorities to deploy miles of razor wire and stacked shipping containers to create a barrier at the park. But this was later canceled after residents complained.

While residents were still allowed to access parts of the park at that time, now they will be denied access, according to the mayor.

“They will be denying access,” Mr. Salinas said. “Again, this is not the city of Eagle Pass denying access to the park. This is the state using that emergency declaration.”

The Epoch Times contacted Mr. Abbott’s office, Texas DPS, and the Texas Military Department for further comment.

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