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Texas troopers apprehend human smugglers, gang members | Texas

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Bethany Blankley | contributor – 2024-05-25 14:48:00

(The Center Square) – Texas Department of Public Safety troopers continue to apprehend human smugglers and gang members and find dozens of people being held in stash houses at the border.

Troopers foiled human smuggling events in Webb County this past week.

On Tuesday, two alleged human smugglers were driving on I-35, which runs north and south from the border town of Laredo to San Antonio, roughly a two- to three-hour drive. Troopers stopped both vehicles and those inside attempted to run away, running across the highway, attempting to evade arrest. Among them was an alleged smuggler, Daniel Pena, from Zapata, Texas.

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Troopers then looked inside his pickup truck and found 15 Mexican nationals hiding in the rear cab and inside toolboxes.

The other alleged smuggler was Mario Gutierrez Zambrano, a Mexican national illegally in the United States. Both he and Pena were arrested and charged with smuggling of persons and evading arrest. All 15 Mexicans were handed over to Border Patrol.

DPS Troopers stopped two trucks driving in tandem on IH-35 in Webb County earlier this week. During the traffic stop, the driver of the first truck, Daniel Pena of Zapata, Texas, bailed out and attempted to evade. Troopers discovered 15 illegal immigrants from Mexico stuffed in toolboxes and the truck's rear cab. Pena and the driver of the second truck, an illegal immigrant from Mexico, were arrested and charged with smuggling of persons. All 15 illegal immigrants were referred to Border Patrol.

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Smugglers also drive north on Highway 59 from Laredo to Houston, roughly a five-hour drive, and are often apprehended by an Operation Lone Star task force headed by Goliad Sheriff Roy Boyd, The Center Square has reported. One recent smuggling event was foiled in Roma after OLS task force investigators apprehended alleged human smugglers several hours north of the border.

Also in Webb County, DPS special agents and troopers found 29 illegal foreign nationals being held in a stash house. They asked them for their phones and identification, with some appearing to say they didn't have any. The men and women were separated and held in different rooms of the house.

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TC S Operation Lone Star border crisis stash house

Texas Department of Public Safety special agents and troopers find 29 Mexicans and Hondurans in a stash house in Webb County, including a Tango Blast gang member.



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In total, they included 21 men and eight women who were citizens of Honduras and Mexico.

One of the men was identified as a member of the Tango Blast Gang. Everyone in the stash house was referred to Border Patrol.

DPS Special Agents and Troopers discovered 29 illegal immigrants in a Webb County stash house. The group of illegal immigrants included 21 males and eight females from Honduras and Mexico. One of the males was identified as a member of the Tango Blast Gang. All 29 illegal immigrants were referred to Border Patrol.

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Last year, the Texas legislature enhanced border security measures during the regular legislative session and in several special sessions. In the third special session, they passed bills that increased the penalties for human smuggling and operating stash houses, The Center Square reported.

When signing the bills into law, Gov. Greg Abbott said the situation “has gotten out of control” in Texas. In 2017, there were 370 human smuggling arrests in Texas. By 2023, they increased to 7,700, a more than 2,000% increase. The new law creates a mandatory 10-year minimum prison sentence for smuggling and a five-year mandatory prison sentence for operating a stash house.

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The new border security laws also enable law enforcement officers to continue their efforts through Abbott's border security mission, Operation Lone Star. Since he launched OLS in April 2021, they've arrested more than 511,600 illegal foreign nationals. They've also made more than 43,100 criminal arrests, with more than 38,000 felony charges reported.

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The Center Square

Anti-Israel protestors targeting Hispanic, conservative members of Congress | Texas

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Bethany Blankley | contributor – 2024-06-20 18:28:00

(The Center Square) – As anti-Israel protestors continue to harass a Hispanic U.S. senator in Texas, polls show Hispanic Americans support Israel, and Hispanic Texans are leaning more Republican than ever before, sayng they are fed up with high inflationary costs and “open border policies” of the current administration. 

Flag Day, June 14, was the 23rd time since Feb. 10 that anti-Israel protestors descended outside of the home of U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican and Cuban American who lives with his family in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston.

Nearly all protestors were wearing masks and facial coverings; some were chanting “free Palestine” and other slogans, ringing cow bells, and holding signs reading, “No rest for the wicked, Ted,” “Ted Cruz, we know you're AIPAC bought,” and “Israel bombs playgrounds.” 

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On Friday, Cruz posted a of them on social media stating, “For the past six months, anti-Israel protestors have come to my home just about every Sat morning at 7 am and most Fri nights until 10 or 11 pm. They scream, disturb the peace & wake the neighbors. No matter how much these antisemites cheer Hamas, I will stand with Israel.”

Many anti-Israel protestors continue to deny or justify the acts of the Islamic terrorist group Hamas when its members killed more than 1,200 people in Israel and took roughly 250 people hostage on Oct. 7. Many argue Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians. They also argue student protestors chanting “death to Jews” and calling for the destruction of Israel are exercising “free speech,” according to a recent lawsuit. 

Jewish groups that sued Muslim student groups last month argue they are knowingly providing “continuous, systematic, and substantial assistance to Hamas and its affiliates' acts of international terrorism,” The Center Square reported. Gov. Greg Abbott, Cruz and others have argued that hate speech and threatening to kill Jews isn't protected speech. 

Cruz began posting videos of the anti-Israel protestors clamoring outside of his home in February. He said they “have come to my house early in the morning, waking up the neighbors & harassing my family. None expressed concern about Hamas' Oct 7 murder of over 1200 or mass rapes of women & children. I'm proud to stand with Israel.” 

Cruz is not the only member of Congress to be targeted in Texas. Last November, another Hispanic Republican in Texas' Congressional delegation, U.S. Rep. Monica De La Cruz, was targeted, The Center Square reported. Her McAllen office was vandalized twice by pro-Hamas activists after she expressed support for Israel. Spray painted messages in red paint read, “Israel kills Jews too,” “Monica murders,” and “You can't escape your crimes Monica.”

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In response, she said: “Let me be crystal clear: These acts of vandalism will never intimidate me, silence me, or stop me from opposing antisemitism and supporting Israel's right to defend itself.”

Cruz and De La Cruz appear to be the only members of Congress in Texas targeted by anti-Israel protestors. Both are proud of their Hispanic heritage and claim to be conservative Christians, also arguing conservative values better represent the Hispanic community in Texas. Hispanic Texans are put off by the far-left progressive agenda of the Democratic Party, including transgender policies that threaten biological girls, defunding the police, opening the border, the anti-Israel agenda, among others, they argue.

In January, more than a dozen Hispanic Christian organizations representing millions of followers, including in Texas, expressed their support for Israel and the Jewish community. Hispanics, including immigrants, have strongly supported Israel for decades, according to the National Latino Evangelical Coalition, Axios reported.

Cruz and De La Cruz have helped encourage a trend of Hispanic voters and officials shifting right politically. Since 2018, more local officials have left the Democratic Party to become Republicans, The Center Square reported. Earlier this year, a new coalition, Democrats for Cruz, launched, arguing the Democratic Party of Texas “has abandoned Texas.” 

The coalition of Texans who historically voted Democrat and are now voting for Cruz, support Israel, law enforcement, securing the border, protecting the Texas oil and natural gas industry, among other issues, according to a recent announcement.

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Cruz was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 2012, won reelection in 2016 and 2020, and is leading his current challenger in the polls in his third reelection bid.

De La Cruz has helped turn precincts Republican in the Rio Grande Valley. She was elected to Congress in November 2022, winning 53% of the vote, making history in her south Texas border district. She's running for reelection against the Democrat she defeated in 2022.

De La Cruz was also the first female Republican Texas congresswoman in history to give a Spanish language rebuttal to a state of the union address. In March, she argued the president “does not understand us.”

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Seafood industry groups unite to oppose bill that would limit bottom trawls | Alaska

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Steve Wilson | – 2024-06-20 12:34:00

(The Center Square) – A bill introduced last month in the U.S. House of Representatives that could place limits on trawling by fishermen and shrimpers is drawing the fire of seafood industry groups from Alaska to Florida. 

House Resolution 8507, the Bottom Trawl Clarity Act, would require the nation's eight regional Fisheries Management councils, some of which allow fishing trawls to scrape the bottom, to define the terms “substantial” versus “limited” contact of the bottom.

The measure would also require the designation of bottom trawl zones and limit the number of areas where bottom trawling is allowed. This form of trawling utilizes weighted nets equipped with rollers to harvest shrimp, flounder, whiting, red hake, dogfish and some species of crab. 

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The bill is authored by U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola, D-Alaska, who said in a summary of the legislation that “limiting the areas where bottom trawling is allowed will help enhance marine , diversity, and resilience, strengthening the ocean ecosystem that Alaska fishermen depend on.”

In a letter sent to Peltola by 53 seafood industry groups and companies, they ask her to withdraw her bill, citing harm to the industry. The signees include the National Fisheries Institute, the Alaska Whitefish Trawlers Association, the Southern Shrimp Alliance, shrimper organizations in Louisiana, South Carolina and Texas, the New England Fishermen's Stewardship Association and the Northeast Seafood Coalition, among others. 

“The introduction of H.R. 8507 shakes the confidence of seafood buyers and consumers in U.S. seafood, thereby casting a long shadow of uncertainty over the future opportunities of fishery-dependent communities and businesses at the worst possible time,” the letter says. “Its top-down mandates would permanently wall off vast sections of ocean territory from important sustainable fisheries, boxing in not only fishermen but also scientists and managers who would be prevented from adapting their management approaches to changing ocean conditions over time.”

Mike Merrifield is the vice president of the Southeastern Fisheries Association and one of the letter signers. 

“The inflexible approach in Rep. Peltola's anti-mobile gear legislation is especially troubling given it restricts the ability of commercial fisheries to respond to resource shifts due to changing ocean temperatures,” Merrifield said in a statement. “Shrimp are particularly sensitive to ocean temperatures which are driving the resource into different areas and deeper water.

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“The legislation will prevent industry in the South Atlantic and every other region from being able to adjust fishing efforts to provide food for our nation.”

Also releasing a statement was Alvin D. Osterback, the mayor of the Aleutians East Borough. He said passage of the legislation would result in his community being substantially harmed by the legislation's requirements since most of their tax revenue comes from trawl fisheries and could even result in the five-city borough not being able to meet bond obligations and fund its education system. 

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Texas towns under water, river basins flooding as Tropical Storm Alberto moves in | Texas

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www.thecentersquare.com – By Bethany Blankley | contributor – 2024-06-19 14:56:00

(The Center Square) – Several towns are under water, experiencing 3 to 4-foot storm surges after the first tropical storm of the season moved in Tuesday night and a torrential downpour began Wednesday.

The National Weather Service Houston said the “Potential Tropical Cyclone One is now Tropical Storm Alberto! Extensive coastal flooding has been reported at area beaches, coastlines. No changes to coastal flood and tropical storm warnings. Flash flood threat from rainfall continues to diminish with rain rates modest and manageable so far.”

On Wednesday morning, it said, “moderate coastal flooding from Tropical Storm Alberto is occurring along much of the Texas coast today and continuing through tomorrow.” The peak storm surge forecast is expected to hit with at least a 2.4-foot storm surge.

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The National Weather Service-Houston-Galveston issued a flood watch warning effective Tuesday through Wednesday for the Houston-Galveston region. It also issued a severe thunderstorm warning in an area north of Matagorda Bay. The National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center also issued a tornado warning on Wednesday for the Coastal Bend region from Port Mansfield, along the coast stretching to Corpus Christi, Port Lavaca and Freeport.

This is after the Galveston Bay area has already suffered devastation from heavy rainfall that has killed its entire oyster population, The Center Square reported.

As of Wednesday morning, Tropical Storm Alberto had made its way from the Gulf of Mexico northeast to hit Texas' coast bringing with it so far a 3 to 4-foot storm surge. In Surfside Beach, water rose under homes on stilts.

Posting a video of the flooding, AccuWeather reported, “Heavy coastal rain and flooding are expected to occur across northeastern Mexico, southern and eastern Texas and Louisiana through Thursday.”

It also reported that the storm is expected to bring at least a foot of rain to the Texas coast.

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Storm Chaser Houston also posted video of coastal flooding in Matagorda, with the water rising underneath homes on stilts.

Local residents also posted and pictures on social media of flooding in Galveston Bay, the historic Strand in downtown Galveston, areas in the west end of Galveston Island, the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway and Bolivar Peninsula. In Houston, a torrential downpour continued as KHOU 11 and the Texas Department of Transportation publicized notices about flooded exits along I-10.

The National Weather Service West Gulf River Forecast Center explained that Tropical Storm Alberto would cause more river flooding across coastal river basins. It's currently forecasting flooding along several streams within the Nueces River Basin.

Gov. Greg Abbott increased the readiness level of the Texas State Emergency Operations Center to Level II (Escalated Response Conditions) on Tuesday ahead of the expected storm surge.

“As we prepare for severe tropical weather, Texas is activating all personnel and resources needed to support Texans and communities that will be potentially impacted by excessive rain and flooding,” he said. He also encouraged “Texans in at-risk areas are urged to remain vigilant, monitor weather conditions, and take necessary precautions to keep themselves and their loved ones safe.”

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