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Securing the border during the shutdown

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HOUSTON (FOX 26) -

                The plan was already in place.  Prior to the government shutdown, in an effort to secure the Texas Mexico border, Border Patrol 'higher ups' decided to send the bulk of their new rookie hires to South Texas.  It is by far the busiest area for undocumented crossings along the southern border.

                The budget fight almost forced 350 new agents to the training academy early.  Instead, they stayed, trained, but didn't get paid.   In addition, current agents also stayed on the job without pay.

 

"My colleagues and I saw firsthand the tragedies of this border,"  said Congressman Michael McCaul, (R-TX). 

 

At the time of his visit, McCaul had hoped another bill,  H.R. 1417,  The Border Security Results Act, would be the solution.

And it may be, once the government reopens, and lawmakers start voting on things unrelated to the shutdown.  Some of his congressional colleagues accompanied him to see what law enforcement along the border encounter.

"To see this morning a dead body right here, it's dramatic indication that we have to do a better job," said Congressman Leonard Lance.

A congressional employee captured video of the body floating on the Rio Grande.  Children played nearby.  While curious onlookers sat perched on Mexican soil, watching as law enforcement and law makers toured the river onboard a half million dollar Texas Department of Public Safety powerboat. 

                When they're not around, Hidalgo County Precinct 3 Constable deputies are tasked with protecting this area right off the  international border.

 

CONSTABLE LARRY GALLARDO

"We've had several instances where we had people fleeing from a gunfight across the river into our county park, where shots have been fired from over to here, endangering my deputies," said constable Larry Gallardo.  "This is just the entry point.  From here it goes up (Highway) 281 (to) stash houses up (highway)281 or (highway) 77 and eventually ends up in  Houston."

 

                A few miles from south, a border patrol agent pointed out a group of people  under the Hidalgo Reynosa International Bridge. 

                They had been in the water, moving toward American soil, when their guide, who appeared to be just a young  boy, spotted the agent and retreated toward Mexico.

                Further south, in Cameron County, lawmakers got a bird's eye view of the ground along the river's banks  from  military helicopters, piloted by  National Guardsmen. 

 

"We actually have Border Patrol agents in the aircraft with us," said Col. Pat Hamilton.

 

McCaul hopes to use military equipment to help secure the area.

"This is a great example back here of an aircraft that came back home from operations in Afghanistan and Iraq that now we can redeploy to the southwest border," he said.

Hamilton gave a few more details.

"Most of our pilots here are combat veterans," he said.  " That's something we didn't have before. We take some of our young pilots, on the other side of this, who have not had those kinds of experiences yet, who maybe have 50 hours in this aircraft, (and) they spend six months here doing this mission.  They walk away with 1250 hours operational time in an aircraft.   (They) are not just flying around doing training tasks.  They are flying around doing operational missions, which help when they then deploy during combat."

 

                The aircraft are so  valuable, so top secret, we weren't even allowed to take pictures of them from certain angles. 

                They have continued to fly though the shutdown.

"I was skeptical at first but I was absolutely amazed at how successful that has been," Hamilton said.

While lawmakers in Washington have been fighting over a  budget these past few weeks, people have continued to fight to get into the United States any way they can.  Constable Gallardo says it happens on a daily basis.

"You never know," he said.  "It could be terrorists.  It could be criminals that are coming across.  We never know who they are."

 

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