EDINBURG, TEXAS – The U.S. Border Patrol hopes to replicate their success in Arizona to stem the tide of illegal immigrants flowing into South Texas.
Over a million undocumented immigrants have been detained along the southern border since 2013, with a great number of them entering through the Rio Grande Valley sector.
So it’s no surprise that Manuel Padilla Jr., one of Border Patrol’s most successful sector chiefs, was assigned earlier this year to do something about it.
“Where RGV goes so does the Border Patrol now,” Padilla said.
The 30-year veteran of the force, left Tucson, Arizona, once known as the busiest sector in the agency and where the illegal immigration rate dropped significantly under his watch.
“[It was done] with a sound strategy that we built targeting the networks,” he said. “Aside from just interdicting people, we combined intelligence, investigations, and interdictions in a unified effort; targeting the criminal organizations to where they started moving to other parts of the country. “
But Padilla is navigating through uncharted waters with the arrival of thousands of Central American families and children, who turn themselves into authorities, straining their resources. The chief said the strategy needed to evolve with more technology, more agents, and done with more compassion.
“Because you’re dealing with these situations, the humanitarian mission, the rescues and such,” added Padilla. “So when you bring a high level of detection and a high level of response to the border that really changes the border environment, it truly transforms the border.”
The sector chief believes the Border Patrol needs to attack their mission with an all-of-the-above approach. However, the challenge remains to hold the plug in Arizona while trying to stop the flow in the Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere.
“My overarching goal for this area is to make this area an undesirable location for criminal organizations to operate in,” he said.
Chief Padilla said he must ensure that the next generation of agents can successfully lead the agency once he’s gone in order for the strategy to work in the long run.