Texas Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday announced new efforts to stamp out human trafficking related to illegal border crossings amid a surge in apprehensions, including of unaccompanied minors, at the southern border.
The anti-human trafficking efforts will be included in the state’s “Operation Lone Star,” a mission launched at the start of the month to address the smuggling of people and drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas.
As part of the new efforts, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) troopers and agents, as well as the Texas Rangers, will interview unaccompanied minors who crossed the border, to identify victims of human trafficking and gather information to help arrest traffickers.
Abbott has requested that the Biden administration allow the Texas DPS to have access to the unaccompanied minor holding facility in Dallas and other facilities under federal purview in Texas for the interviews.
At a press conference announcing the changes, Abbott criticized the recent actions of the Biden administration.
“President Biden’s reckless open border policies have created a humanitarian crisis that is enriching the cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers who often prey on and abuse unaccompanied minors,” he said, according to a release.
“Americans deserve to know what the Biden Administration is doing to investigate the surge of unaccompanied minors crossing the border and to protect those who are victims of human trafficking.
“That is why we are expanding Operation Lone Star to include anti-human trafficking efforts, such as interviewing unaccompanied minors to learn if they are victims of human trafficking. This will help us gain information to keep these children safe, root out human trafficking or other criminal activity, and prevent more children from being trafficked and abused.
“Whether it’s securing the border or fighting human trafficking, the state of Texas will always step up to fill the gaps left by Washington.”
According to Abbott’s office, there are 1,000 Texas DPS troopers, agents, and rangers involved in “Operation Lone Star.” The new efforts will be handled by the governor’s Child Sex Trafficking Team and other organizations and agencies who work to combat human trafficking in Texas.
Previously, Abbott issued a statement that alleged that the Biden administration has “no plan in place” for the children being held in Texas facilities.
“The Biden Administration’s reckless open border policies have created a humanitarian crisis for unaccompanied minors coming across the border. With no plan in place, the administration has created heartbreaking and inhumane conditions for children who are being held in Texas,” he said on March 15. “We have no idea if these children are being reunited with their families through DNA testing or other means, or if they have been victims of human trafficking.”
The Epoch Times has reached out to the Biden administration for comment.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki on March 15 acknowledged that there is a “big problem” at the southern border, adding that the administration will be exhausting its efforts to solve the problem.
“We recognize this is a big problem. The last administration left us a dismantled and unworkable system. And like any other problem, we are going to do everything we can to solve it,” she said.
Republicans say the surge in immigrants is due to Biden’s reversal of former President Donald Trump’s immigration and border policies, including halting border wall construction and reinstating catch and release, in which illegal immigrants are allowed into the country while waiting for their asylum claims to be heard.
Republicans also alleged that cartels are exploiting the loosened border policies by transporting unaccompanied minors and other immigrants across the border.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told a reporter on Capitol Hill on March 16 that the Biden administration “in effect, issued an invitation for unaccompanied children to come to this country.”
“That has resulted in an enormous surge of unaccompanied minors being handed over to the custody of human traffickers who are violent transnational criminals, who engage in physical abuse and sexual abuse of those kids,” he said.