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Gov. Ricketts defends decision to send State Patrol to Texas calling the border mission a success

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 5:03 PM CDT
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Governor Pete Ricketts responded to criticism of his decision to send 25 Nebraska State Patrol members to Del Rio, Texas.

The mission was a response to an Emergency Management Assistance Compact request from Texas to help near the Mexico border.

“The reason we are responding to this is the great influx of illegal immigrants across the border,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts said in June of 2021 there were 188,000 contacts with U.S. Customs and Border Protection along the Mexico border in Texas compared to 33,000 one year ago.

“With the great influx of illegal immigrants coming across the border it creates a security issue for the United States as well as an immigration crisis,” Ricketts said.

In the past, Nebraska has responded to similar calls from EMAC - sending law enforcement of different types to help with the inauguration, the protests surrounding the Derek Chauvin trial, and to North Dakota during pipeline protests. Ricketts said that border activity in Texas warranted the same kind of assistance.

As part of that agreement, Nebraska will not be reimbursed for the estimated $500,000 cost of the trip. But the Governor said Thursday that he hopes a special Texas senate session would bring money back to Nebraska.

During their time in Texas, 25 Nebraska State Patrol members worked in a support capacity to local agencies. Nebraska assisted in conducting 500 traffic stops and 25 commercial vehicle inspections which resulted in several arrests for weapons and narcotics. They also made a total of 15 arrests for human smuggling, located six gang or cartel members, recovered stolen vehicles and assisted in multiple arrests for sex offenses against minors and the crime of child exploitation. Troopers assisted as officers referred more than 1,600 migrants to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

The State Patrol said the vast majority of the migrants they came in contact with actually approached troopers asking for help.

“The overwhelming majority felt as though we were rescuing them from a situation where they were either going to enter into workforce labor, smuggling, human smuggling or sex trafficking,” said Captain Jason Scott.

Troopers worked a section of interstate that has a lot of criminal activity. Captain Scott said it was invaluable experience especially for young troopers.

“I have no doubt that when they come back and look at I-80 they’ll look at it differently than when they went to Del Rio,” Captain Scott said. “Certain indicators of human smuggling may really rise to the surface for them now. In essence our people got about a lifetime’s worth of criminal activity and smuggling investigations in 24 days time.”

The mission was originally only supposed to last for 16 days but was extended to 24. The troopers are returning Thursday and Friday.

The State Patrol said there was no lapse in service back in Nebraska, but during the time those troopers were away that the agency saw 500 fewer traffic stops.

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