"The Surge." From the Texas Observer. Written by Melissa del Bosque.
On a Friday morning, two days before Christmas 2016, Marianna Treviño-Wright decided she’d had enough of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s latest “border surge.” The longtime executive director of the National Butterfly Center in Mission, Treviño-Wright sat down at her desk, next to the baby turtle terrarium and the butterfly kites, to write an angry email to the local DPS captain. “My employees are being repeatedly stopped for a variety of reasons,” she wrote. “They are being questioned in the morning, when arriving at work and opening the gate. … They are being pulled over on Military [Highway] and on Schuerbach [Road] and asked, ‘What are you doing out here?’”
It was an incident the day before that finally pushed her over the edge. That morning, a DPS trooper had pulled over her groundskeeper in the center’s parking lot and demanded to see the man’s driver’s license. In the past, she and her staff had tried to laugh it off, making sarcastic jokes with one another about how one Mexican looked just like the next to DPS, but now it was getting ridiculous. The trooper said he’d stopped the groundskeeper because of a faulty taillight. But the taillight worked just fine. “This particular employee has been pulled over three times in seven days,” she wrote. “So I think it would be easy to assert he is being targeted for harassment.”
The National Butterfly Center sprawls across 100 acres, bordering the Rio Grande in Hidalgo County. The land sits on the migration route for the threatened monarch and dozens of other species that pass through the area every fall on their way to Mexico. For more than a decade, the center has also been inside the zone of one DPS border security operation after another, as state leaders have converted the state police agency into Texas’ own Department of Homeland Security. Once devoted primarily to enforcing statewide traffic laws and conducting criminal investigations, over the past decade DPS has received billions in taxpayer dollars to invest in special-ops teams, armored gunboats, spy planes and other military equipment to patrol the Texas-Mexico border. Continue reading