Three top Texas government officials, including one Democrat, are questioning the Department of Homeland Security’s border security measures after a report showed the agency ended an aerial surveillance program on the Mexican border.
Operation Phalanx, which was fully funded through 2017, was quietly shut down by the DHS, according to a recent report by watchdog.org. The aerial surveillance program intercepted illegal crossings and drugs on the border of Mexico.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Republican Sen. John Cornyn, and U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) in a letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johhson requested information on aerial-based border security measures the agency is employing — especially in light of an uptick in migrant crossings this month and this year so far that are reportedly higher than last year’s crossings.
Their letter on Tuesday also pointed out that the DHS had not requested any flight hours from the Department of Defense, which supports the program, for the calendar year 2017.
“Given the continuing surge of migrants along the Southern Border beyond FY 2015 numbers and a large uptick in apprehensions already for the month of November 2016, we believe DHS should be requesting more surveillance and security resources, not less,” Abbott, Cornyn, and Cuellar wrote to Johnson.
“Given that Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Air and Marine is currently 12 percent below its goal for air interdiction agents this cut in DOD support is extremely prudent,” they wrote.
Cuellar said in an email to LifeZette it is “unjustifiable” to cut this support.
“Senator Cornyn, Governor Abbott and myself, in a bipartisan manner, wrote this letter to Secretary Johnson because, at a time when we’re seeing increases in the number of apprehensions of Central Americans, Haitians, Cubans and migrants from Africa and Asia, it is unjustifiable to cut this support for border security,” said the congressman.
“I live on the border and represent an area that is greatly affected by illegal immigration. Any decrease in aerial observation on our southern border therefore goes against the mission of border security enforcement,” said Cuellar.
This is not the first time the government leaders have expressed concern to the agency on its aerial surveillance measures. In February, the government leaders also questioned why DHS had only requested half of its normal flight hours from the DOD — even though the program was also fully funded for the mission for calendar year 2016.
DHS acted after the officials questioned the agency’s lack of flight hours. “Taking into account the increase in apprehensions over 2015, DHS heeded our concerns and requested supplemental flight hours in June,” the letter stated.
Now the officials are asking the DHS for “immediate information on the metrics used to determine that a full cut in DOD aerial resource for Operation Phalanx would be sufficient to support our nation’s border security efforts.”
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