McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — A state report detailing the successes and failings of law enforcement and school officials relating to the May 24 massacre in Uvalde, Texas, also found that desensitization to immigration-related crimes in border communities likely compounded the crisis.
The July 17 report by the Texas House Investigative Committee on the Robb Elementary Shooting, largely blamed law enforcement for waiting too long to enter a classroom where 19 children and two teachers were killed and faulted school officials for not adhering to the district’s safety plan by not having properly locking doors, or for more quickly alerting teachers of the on-site shooter.
But the report also said that frequent and reoccurring “bailouts” — vehicular chases between law enforcement with illegal immigrants who abandon vehicles in border communities — have desensitized the Uvalde community and “contributed to a diminished sense of vigilance about responding to security alerts.”
There have been 47 “secure” or “lockdown” events since February 2022 with 90% of those attributed to bailouts in the Uvalde border region, according to the 77-page report.
Kenneth Mueller, the Uvalde school district’s director of student services, told the investigating committee that “high-speed chases have been a daily event in the Uvalde area, causing Uvalde CISD schools to be secured or locked down frequently,” according to the report.
While no bailout abandonments actually occurred on school campus property, the report found that high-speed chases did go through school parking lots, and the constant warnings and alerts by law enforcement to Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District personnel led to a false sense of security and relaxed attitude toward the actual level of danger the students and staff were in.
“The series of bailout-related alerts led teachers and administrators to respond to all alerts with less urgency — when they heard the sound of an alert, many assumed that it was another bailout,” according to the report.
Uvalde is about 70 miles from the northern Mexican border towns of Piedras Negras and Ciudad Acuña. The town of 15,000 is situated near two highways that feed from border towns and are frequent routes used by human smugglers, who are called guides or ‘coyotes.‘
When law enforcement officers pursue a suspect vehicle and a high-speed chase ensues, it can end up destroying local property, ranchlands, gates and fences, sometimes letting livestock out.
The report found there were incidents involving firearms and bailouts occurring in surrounding school neighborhoods, Uvalde CISD Police Chief Pete Arredondo told investigators.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, told Border Report that migrants involved in bailouts often are being led by transnational criminal organizations or cartels. These dangerous organizations receive millions of dollars to smuggle humans into the United States and will do anything to move their “loads.”
Migrants who pay to be smuggled into the country differ from asylum seekers, who cross the border and readily surrender to U.S. Border Patrol agents, he said.
“It does put the community at risk because we’re talking about a different profile, the people who are trying to evade. So you have drivers that will try to evade and drive many times at high speeds that can put community members at risk if there is an accident and that includes many times the migrants that are in that particular vehicle,” Cuellar said. “It does bring a safety issue as opposed to the ones who are trying to turn themselves in and are processed by Border Patrol.”
Susan Kibbe, executive director of the South Texans’ Property Rights Association, a nonprofit organization that represents ranchers in South Texas and has members in Uvalde, says many landowners have lost livestock and had property damaged by bailouts.
“They just take off and they’re getting more and more brazen and rash,” Kibbe told Border Report. “They go through multiple fences to try to bypass law enforcement, damaging private property as they go. It’s just a chaotic scene that shouldn’t be.”
She says that with every chase, their safety is also in jeopardy.
“I just feel like we’re forgotten and not cared about at all and it’s the truth,” said Kibbe, whose ranch in Jim Wells County has been damaged by multiple bailouts. “Ranchers are fed up.”
Kibbe said she believes the only way this will change is for more conservative leadership with a harder line against those who try to enter the United States illegally.
“The constant pursuits and bailouts. There’s got to be an end to this and I think the only end to this is voting,” Kibbe said.