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Gov. Abbott says Texas DPS will increase truck inspections after migrant smuggling tragedy

Police scene san antonio.JPG
Eric Gay
/
AP
Police work the scene where dozens of people were found dead in a semitrailer in a remote area in southwestern San Antonio, Monday, June 27, 2022.

Abbott said during a news conference in Eagle Pass that officers hope to target vehicles similar to the one used during a smuggling attempt that led to the deaths of more than 50 migrants.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Texas Department of Public Safety officers will increase tractor trailer inspections on highways that connect the state to Mexico.

Abbott made the announcement in response to Monday’s discovery of dozens of deceased migrants who were found in a tractor trailer in San Antonio. The body count from the tragedy increased to 53 Wednesday, Texas Public Radio reported.

“DPS will create and implement a checkpoint strategy beginning immediately. They will begin targeting trucks like the one that was used when these people perished,” Abbott said during a news conference in Eagle Pass.

Abbott said he wasn’t going to say where the checkpoints will take place so as to avoid tipping off human smugglers.

Abbott repeatedly slammed President Biden's border policies as the reason for the tragedy.

“President Biden was warned in advance that reduced border enforcement would lead to dire consequences, and we have seen those dire consequences,” Abbott said.

He added that trucks like the one that carried the migrants through a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint are able to do so because the U.S. Border Patrol is understaffed.

“Many of these deaths could be prevented if Biden simply, fully funded the Border Patrol operation of the United States of America,” he said.

In fiscal year 2021, the agency had about 19,530 agents, according to federal statistics. That’s just below the average of 19,595 agents during from 2017 to 2020.

The announcement Wednesday comes two months after Abbott ordered the Texas DPS to conduct enhanced inspections of all commercial traffic coming into the state from Mexico as part of Operation Lone Star, a Texas-funded and -operated border security mission. The inspections led to hours-long delays at the state’s busiest ports of entries and cost Texas billions of dollars in lost revenue.

The new checkpoints will be placed away from the border and will be mobile, the Houston Chronicle reported.

While Abbott has used the tragedy to criticize the White House’s border policies, advocacy groups have slammed Abbott’s Operation Lone Star and Trump-era immigration rhetoric as the main culprit.

“This tragedy is a failure of leadership at all levels of government. It should never have happened, and we are committed to making sure that it will never happen again,” the Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services, or RAICES, said in a statement.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.