TX Border Cameras Confirm 156% Increase in 'Gotaways' as Illegals Elude Capture


It’s not just illegal migrants awaiting asylum hearings in detention who are driving the border crisis. It’s also “gotaways.”

The term shouldn’t need much explaining. If an illegal migrant crosses the border and doesn’t give himself up, isn’t detected in time or manages to elude authorities, he’s considered a gotaway.

Their numbers are difficult to track, but Texas has a better idea than most states. That’s because, according to The Washington Times, it has its own system of sensors and cameras at the border called Operation Drawbridge.

The cameras are monitored by analysts on the Texas end who call Border Patrol if there’s been a breach. The system gives authorities a good idea of how many illegal migrants are escaping capture.

And, oh dear, are there a lot of them.

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The camera system only provides a rough estimate — but that estimate is that there were 156 percent more gotaways between January and April 7 than there were during the same period last year.

This year, there have been 21,904 gotaways recorded by Operation Drawbridge cameras, The Times reported Thursday. In the first few months of 2020, there were 8,561.

To make matters worse, authorities think that might be lowballing it.

“People are coming in by the droves,” Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez of Val Verde County, Texas, said.

According to Sheriff Martinez, most of the gotaways aren’t Central Americans or family units. They’re single adults, generally from Mexico — individuals who would get sent back immediately if they were taken into custody by authorities. Migrants from faraway countries and unaccompanied minors generally don’t run because they won’t be immediately expelled.

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Martinez also estimated that 75 percent of his department’s calls for assistance have to do with the border and said they’ve had eight drownings in the Rio Grande already this year.

The problem with gotaways isn’t just that they’re entering the country illegally. As previously mentioned, most other illegal migrants don’t bother running when approached by Border Patrol or other authorities. Gotaways not only flee, but they often fight law enforcement to try to escape.

“In Texas, the Cotulla Independent School District sent a letter April 1 warning parents to be wary while their children walk home from school or play outside their homes,” The Times reported.

“La Salle County, where Cotulla is located, has eight to 10 car chases a day, and many of those result in bailouts as migrants and smugglers ditch their cars and flee through neighborhoods, the school system told parents.”

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High-speed car chases involving smugglers are up as well, with two major crashes this year, one killing 13 in California and another ending with eight deaths in Texas.

Rep. James Comer of Kentucky, the ranking Republican on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, visited the border in Texas and New Mexico this week and came away startled.

“There’s just utter fear from the residents. No one wants to leave their children alone. They’re teaching their young children how to shoot a gun,” Comer said.

He described a situation in Columbus, New Mexico, where law enforcement approached a group of 40 illegal immigrants and only managed to capture 16 of them.

“They don’t know what happened to the other 24,” Comer said.

And then there are the recidivists — those who have been caught entering the country illegally more than once in the same 12-month period.

In March, Border Patrol reported a 22 percent recidivism rate, compared with 7 percent in 2019 and 11 percent in 2018.

Illegally re-entering the United States after being removed is supposed to be a felony, but it’s not as if enforcement of that law is something the government has either the will or the prosecutorial bandwidth to accomplish.

Of course, gotaways are far from the only issue we have at the border.

Customs and Border Protection data from March shows that more than 172,000 migrants were taken into custody, the highest number in 15 years. Yet listen to how blasé CBP official Troy Miller sounded in a recent news release:

“CBP has experienced an increase in encounters and arrests. This is not new. Encounters have continued to increase since April 2020, and our past experiences have helped us be better prepared for the challenges we face this year,” Miller said. “We are committed to balancing the need to maintain border security, care for those in our custody, and keep the American people and our workforce safe.”

“Not new”? Here’s how border apprehensions in March 2021 measured up, according to The Washington Post: “The increase last month was so large that it did not fit on the y-axis of the CBP chart that tracks changes in monthly enforcement data.”

Just so we’re clear — that’s The Washington Post, not The Washington Times. When the “Democracy Dies in Darkness” crowd has to put into perspective how out-of-control the situation at the border has become, you know this isn’t just some random fluctuation like the Biden administration’s CBP would like us to believe.

There’s a serious problem at the border because President Joe Biden has made it clear he doesn’t plan to enforce border security with the same vigilance that the Trump administration did.

Unaccompanied minors packed tightly into detention centers grab the headlines, but the gotaway situation presents a different, more acute kind of danger. High-speed pursuits and confrontations with law enforcement are a recipe for trouble — trouble that, as usual, the Biden administration is more than happy to ignore.

Those in La Salle County, Texas, with its “eight to 10 car chases a day,” don’t have that luxury.

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C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014.
C. Douglas Golden is a writer who splits his time between the United States and Southeast Asia. Specializing in political commentary and world affairs, he's written for Conservative Tribune and The Western Journal since 2014. Aside from politics, he enjoys spending time with his wife, literature (especially British comic novels and modern Japanese lit), indie rock, coffee, Formula One and football (of both American and world varieties).
Morristown, New Jersey
Catholic University of America
Languages Spoken
English, Spanish
Topics of Expertise
American Politics, World Politics, Culture