State leaders discuss progress since taking over Fronton Island

2 weeks 5 days 12 hours ago Monday, February 12 2024 Feb 12, 2024 February 12, 2024 6:43 PM February 12, 2024 in News - Local

State leaders were in the Rio Grande Valley Monday to discuss the latest on border security. Their focus was on a corner of Starr County called Fronton Island.

The island is in the middle of the Rio Grande near Roma. For decades, it wasn't claimed by Texas or Mexico and, according to officials, was heavily used by cartels for smuggling. 

The state land commissioner declared it Texas land last year and authorized the Texas Department of Public Safety and the National Guard to patrol it.

On Monday, agencies directly involved with Fronton Island gave an update on the progress since last year's take-over.

This included members of DPS, the National Guard and the General Land Office. All of them considered the operation, so far, a success.

But, not everyone feels the same.

The state says issues that plagued this strip of land between Mexico and the Valley are coming to an end.

"It became a safe haven for them to stash their weapons, stash their drugs," Texas General Land Commissioner Dawn Buckingham said. "And so we took away that safe haven just to make it a generally safer place."

Further inland, those who live in cities along the same area of the border don't feel the same.

"We're like in this activity that makes everyone feel like we're in an occupied area, when we're at war," Voces Unidas RGV co-director Michelle Serrano said.

Migrant and environmental advocates have called it 'border militarization' and claimed that it unfairly targets the community of Fronton.

"What I tend to see happens a lot with any type of border militarization operations is that if it's a low-income area, they don't even think twice, and they'll just go ahead and destroy," Serrano said.

Although the Land Office says cartels have left the island, it's unclear how long law enforcement will stay there.

While the General Land Office decided it was the state's property back in September, the International Boundary and Water Commission is still determining whether that's true.

IBWC declined an interview, but they did say they're going through historical land records to figure out who can stake a claim to the island.

Watch the video above for the full story.

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