Texans press Homeland Security to ramp up border flights
Four days after Watchdog reported that a Mexican border surveillance program was being dismantled, three Texas officials pressed the Department of Homeland Security to reverse course.
“Given the continuing surge of migrants along the southern border … we believe DHS should be requesting more surveillance and security resources, not less,” stated the officials’ letter to DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson on Tuesday. The letter was signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo.
DHS spokesman Dan Hetlage told Watchdog that flights of Operation Phalanx are “funded through the end of December and [a funding] request is in for next year.”
Hetlage said the 2017 request was made on Nov. 16, two days before the Watchdog story appeared. He did not specify the amount of funding sought.
In their Tuesday letter, Abbott, Cornyn and Cuellar declared, “DHS has not requested any flight hours to support Operation Phalanx for calendar year 2017,” even though the program received “a full appropriation of funds from Congress.”
While disputing Watchdog’s report that DHS was phasing out Phalanx operations in Texas, Hetlage said he could not confirm any current flights, citing security issues.
In a Nov. 20 Tweet, Abbott wrote: “I’ve already sent the Nat’l Guard, 100s more public safety officers, boats, planes, cameras, etc. Texas is doing all it can to do feds’ job.”
Rep. Mike McCaul, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said in a statement Wednesday:
“We cannot let our guard down on our southern border. … We must continue to utilize National Guard aviation assets to increase situational awareness and operational control of the border until DHS invests in additional aviation capabilities,” the San Antonio Republican stated.
This article was updated at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday.