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Beyond the Brush: A ride along with DPS troopers patrolling the border

Beyond the Brush: A ride along with DPS troopers patrolling the border
3 months 1 week 4 days ago Thursday, February 15 2024 Feb 15, 2024 February 15, 2024 9:46 PM February 15, 2024 in News - Local

In a Channel 5 News exclusive, Lily Celeste and photographer Mark Vecchio went on two separate ride-alongs with Texas Department of Public Safety troopers patrolling the border under Operation Lone Star.

On the first ride along, DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez took Channel 5 News to areas known for trafficking.

Troopers encountered a trio of migrants near Sullivan City that day. 

Like so many who make the journey here in search of the American dream, their chance was cut short just a few miles north of the Rio Grande. 

One of the migrants said this was the second time he's tried to come to the U.S. 

Under the ongoing, state-funded brush operations, troopers are assigned to brush teams in a joint effort with Border Patrol agents. 

The brush operations started in 2023 as a way for the state to deter human and drug smuggling.

The second ride-along occurred 10 days after the initial one. This time, Channel 5 News rode along with DPS Sgt. Guadalupe Casarez. 

Day two started much differently, with the sun still down at 5:30 a.m.

It’s a common time for crossings, Casarez says it's when patrol shifts change.

“They'll use anything to their advantage,” Casarez said. 

Sgt. Casarez says the further west you go, the busier it gets. The short distance from the river to the expressway makes it easier for smugglers in western Hidalgo County. 

Casarez responded to a call near Palmview where three men and one young woman were being processed.

One of the migrants, identified as Campos, told Channel 5 News he'd been walking for months. 

He's from El Salvador, and wanted to make it to New York where he says his dad and sister are. 

Campos says political and economic problems gave him no choice but to leave, and he thought crossing the border illegally was the only way out.

“It's cost me a lot of money out of fear, and my parents too,” Campos said. “But to me, it was worth it.”

While Campos' journey was cut short, Casarez feels it's for his own safety. 

“Whether they make it to a stash house, that is where the issue is, “Casarez said. “Because these cartels can take advantage of them, so how do we really know if they're gonna take them to their destination?”

The group Campos was in was part of the more than 17 hundred migrants stopped during the brush operations. The state has prosecuted 160 people for smuggling.

Watch the video above for the full story. 

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