EAGLE PASS, Tx.— Fifty-two members of the West Virginia National Guard are getting an eye opening experience helping the Texas National Guard patrol the U.S./Mexico Border. The volunteers from West Virginia have joined guard members from other states to offer assistance in Operation Lone Star. They answered the call of Texas Governor Greg Abbot who asked for help from Governors across the nation. Guard leaders from West Virginia tell MetroNews they encounter migrants crossing into the country illegally each day.
“We’re encountering approximately 2,000 people a week as they come across the border,” said Captain Zack Pingley, Officer in Charge for the West Virginia National Guard on the mission.
“They’ll avoid concertina wire and they’ll avoid a river crossing. The soldiers are encountering a lot of desperate people. Unfortunately they’re unwilling to comply with U.S. federal law and state law here in Texas,” Pingley explained.
West Virginia soldiers have seen migrants force their own children into the concertina wire, often getting cut up, as a way to navigate the obstacle. The illegals realize members of the Texas National Guard or Texas State Police will move in and cut the wire to free the children. Once the wire is cut, the illegals take advantage of the opportunity to slip through.
“I do law enforcement back home and to me that’s felony child neglect or abuse, unfortunately the federal government doesn’t see it that way here,” said Pingley who is from Beverly, West Virginia.
Guard members patrolling the border are armed and the rules of engagement do allow them to protect themselves. The most serious situations so far have involved members of the Mexican drug cartels who arrange the illegal crossings using guides or “coyotes.” It was one of the “coyotes” just over a week ago who created a tense situation.
“They were on the Mexican side and our soldiers were trying to yell at them not to come over. That’s when he grabbed a rifle and pointed it at us, the Texas National Guard, and the Texas State Police,” Pingley explained.
Since the gunman was on the other side of the border, there was little U.S. authorities could do. They contacted Mexican border patrol, but they arrived too late and the suspect had melted back into the border town population. No shots were fired.
The illegal migrants who are caught are taken to processing centers and identified. Pingley said that’s where they learn the most about whose trying to slip in undetected.
“We’ve had a couple of people from Russia, and definitely Ukrainian people. We’ve also seen Cubans and people who have crossed over before and were already deported because they were convicted of crimes in the United States,” he said.
Pingley said they’ve also identified members of the notorious MS-13 gang who have tried to infiltrate.