- Associated Press - Friday, January 1, 2016

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Border Patrol officials say they are now participating in a Texas Department of Public Safety border security strategy six months after distancing themselves from a previous effort.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Michael Friel said last week that his agency is participating in Operation Secure Texas, the roughly $800 million security surge legislators funded last spring, the Austin American-Statesman reported (https://atxne.ws/1P5JtB0 ).

The new effort limits “front-line operational work” in favor of a “detection-based” strategy that “aligns better with our objectives,” Friel said.

Amid an influx of Central American children and families in 2014, former Gov. Rick Perry ordered DPS troopers and Texas National Guard soldiers to the Rio Grande Valley as part of Operation Strong Safety, the effort that became Operation Secure Texas. Perry claimed the federal government wasn’t doing enough to secure Texas’ border.

Last spring, DPS told lawmakers Border Patrol was a partner in the operation and used Border Patrol drug seizure numbers to bolster its case that the state operation was successful and worthy of greater funding.

However, U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske wrote that his agency had in fact “declined participation.” And an American-Statesman investigation found the DPS was responsible for less than 10 percent of drug seizures. The rest came from outside agencies, including the U.S. Border Patrol.

Kerlikowske’s position that the Border Patrol was not involved led some Democratic lawmakers to accuse DPS Director Steven McCraw of misleading them.

DPS still insists Border Patrol was involved. Spokesman Tom Vinger wrote in an email to the newspaper, “We don’t want to engage in a battle of semantics, but U.S. Border Patrol agents have been actively involved in Operation Strong Safety.” He cited the presence of Border Patrol agents in everyday functions at the Operation Strong Safety command post, sharing intelligence and “coordinating interdiction efforts with Operation Strong Safety missions.”

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Information from: Austin American-Statesman, https://www.statesman.com

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