CIS Checks in with the Troops of Operation Faithful Patriot

Article author: 
Todd Bensman
Article publisher: 
Center for Immigration Studies
Article date: 
19 November 2018
Article category: 
National News
Article Body: 

...  On the morning of my second day to check in on the border military operation formerly known as Operation Faithful Patriot, November 13-16, I still hadn’t secured permissions for interviews with officials, embeds with the regular U.S. Army forces deploying here, or access to base camps. Not for lack of trying. It was due to impenetrable multi-agency bureaucracy. That was all the former rogue reporter in me needed to know for release into the wild.

On my own recognizance, I quickly found an army compound within eyesight of the Hidalgo Port of Entry and parked. Within a minute, the gate opened and a Humvee loaded with concertina wire pulled out, followed by a company of soldiers in pretty full battle-rattle. I jumped out of the car, and followed them on foot along a public hike and bike trail, through gaps in some of the tall permanent fencing overlooking the Rio Grande, until they stopped under the vehicle bridge next to the river and started pulling gear out for one of their missions. I learned that all army missions here are ordained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which knows all the ins and outs of what is needed, where.

As a quick aside, the purpose of my visit was to learn how President Donald Trump’s brand new 5,000-soldier border mission deployment was progressing. I wanted to see for myself how the troops were being used in daily routine and to learn how they might be used as the migrant columns from Honduras moved closer to the border. Critics and proponents alike may take from all this what they will but here’s the bottom line up front of what I saw and learned, for good or ill:

  • New troops and equipment were still rolling into at least two main camps in South Texas the week before Thanksgiving, one at the sleepy Donna Port of Entry and the other at the busier Hidalgo Port of Entry. Tents were going up. Heavy construction equipment and large trucks had been brought in and parked, along with Humvees. Helicopters reconnoitered above the camps or flew past them.
  • Although unconfirmed, in the town of Weslaco about 15 miles inland from the river, acres of land cleared, leveled and newly fenced, at least to my mind, bore all the hallmarks of one of the “tent cities” of the sort DHS said would be used for extended detentions of caravanners seeking asylum. The compound was at least 25 acres. It was very freshly cleared and surrounded by fencing with “Warning: military installation” signs posted at intervals while a large abandoned former furniture store nearby was taken over by the army.  No tents had been set up here but long rows of port-o-potties could be seen and large stationary CBP outdoor lighting banks had been set up throughout the largely empty interior. The space would be good to store heavy construction equipment and vehicles too.
  • Troops began deploying from the Donna and Hidalgo camps further upriver to the Laredo, Texas area for various operations that CBP officials determined would be helpful.
  • Most of the troops were not carrying arms, however plenty of Military Policemen carried side arms.
  • Intelligence friends told me the Mexican cartel across the river, CDG, was angered by the U.S. troop deployment because it slowed the pace of drug smuggling and that the blamed the caravan for this. The cartel, I was told, has threatened the migrants to pay steep fees to cross through their territory or go elsewhere, hence the initial moves to Tijuana. No telling whether this is true. I just heard it from sources with access to such information....