Texas takes its border security very seriously, and Governor Rick Perry augments federal border control efforts with its own high-powered teams and equipment. Part of the manpower for this effort is the state’s game wardens. Periodically they are deployed to the Rio Grande to help patrol and prevent illegal immigrants and drug smugglers from entering into Texas.
As part of Operation Strong Safety, all of the 500 or so game wardens in Texas have been sent to the border one or more times to patrol in land units and well-armed boats. While these game wardens do not have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws, they make arrests for crimes at the state level such as human trafficking, assaults, drug smuggling, and evading arrests.
As of June 2015, wardens had seized more than 300 vessels and observed 655 vessels turning around from entering the US after seeing the units of the Texas game wardens. The wardens have also provided humanitarian support. They have rescued people from drowning and provided emergency medical care.
This situation is likely to continue, because the Texas state legislature approved $800 million for border security operations in May 2015. The funding is good for two years and involves adding at least 49 full-time employees to Texas Parks and Wildlife to help with border security.
Texas has formed new game warden teams:
- Dive teams for rescues
- K-9 units to detect narcotics
- Forensics operations team
- Search-and-rescue squad
While this program may seem to represent a change in policy, many of Texas’ game wardens see this new role as fitting in with their history of being deployed to emergency situations like hurricanes and floods. Historically, these professionals have been known as “law enforcement off the pavement,” and they are likely to continue in this role in the near future.