Texas: The Issue Is - DPS Lt. Olivarez speaks on state of the U.S.-Mexico border

Texas and the Biden administration remain locked in a bitter fight over how to handle the southern border crisis. 

There's currently a courtroom showdown here in Austin over Gov. Greg Abbott's floating border barrier. Recently along the Rio Grande, there have been a series of political photo ops by Republicans and by Democrats. 

A lot of the images coming from this hot zone of contention have been posted by DPS Lt. Christopher Olivarez, who spoke with FOX 7 Austin's Rudy Koski in this edition of Texas: The Issue Is.

LT. OLIVAREZ: Most recently, we've been encountering anywhere from 5000 to 6000 daily encounters a day across the southwest border. 

RUDY KOSKI: What's been the newest curveball that you've seen that surprised you? Has it been the armed gunmen that are showing up now? 

LT. OLIVAREZ: Armed gunmen has been something that, you know, is starting to become more common, even armor-piercing rounds. Most recently, we actually encountered two gunmen working with Border Patrol and the Texas game wardens. And they were actually in possession of an M-4 rifle, which is a military grade rifle and also an AK-47. And they had armor-piercing rounds, rounds that can penetrate our bulletproof vests. 

RUDY KOSKI: DPS recently posted showing migrants who were stopped during the tropical depression storm that just came on. So an example, that's human smuggling. It's a 24/7 operation. Right? 

LT. OLIVAREZ: That was very uncommon to see a large group of 100-plus come across the border during a tropical depression. The winds at that time were 20-plus. And of course, criminals smugglers just goes to show you how desperate they are to make their profits to get people across the river. 

RUDY KOSKI: The number of encounters are up, but not as high as in the past. How should people view these numbers?

LT. OLIVAREZ: Can't be deceived by the numbers because we still have a serious border situation with the fact that we have so many people that are still crossing between the ports of entry. 

RUDY KOSKI: The border buoy barrier system was making news recently in regards to the court hearings, but in regards to the system itself, in your opinion, is it working? I've seen the images of the people being diverted. That's what it's all about, is trying to divert them into an area where they can be apprehended. So in your opinion, is it working? 

LT. OLIVAREZ: Yes. The marine barrier has been proven to be effective ever since it's been placed at bay. 

RUDY KOSKI: I mean, we're talking about it, but this large river really isn't working. 

LT. OLIVAREZ: It is. You know, the reason why I said is because that Pacific air with a bully is placed right now. That's what we see large, large groups of people that were crossing by the hundreds, even thousands at the time. Now that the Marine barracks that put in place at that area to go past those crossings had been diverted to other areas, which has now reduced the number of people that are coming across to a smaller group. 

RUDY KOSKI: Congressman Joaquin Castro came down, looked at the border buoys, made note of a big device that is in between the buoys, called it a chainsaw type device. What's your reaction to that comment? 

LT. OLIVAREZ: But that actual assault, this alleged assault that they're alleging, it's not a small blade, it's actually a radial passive device. This is an anti-step device. It's not sharpened. It's not meant to puncture the skin. Does it cause any harm? No, again, another allegation that's completely false. But of course, we back it up with evidence that we have. And of course, the only way you're going to know that, to see that firsthand, seeing how it operates, looking at the device and actually speaking to officials that actually oversee the project, which would be DPS. 

RUDY KOSKI: Earlier this month, DPS posted images. You posted images of a huge surge at one of the international bridges. Is there any concern that another surge is on the way? 

LT. OLIVAREZ: It's causing some frustration. I've spoken to some of the migrants. They tell me they're waiting anywhere from three or five months to even get an appointment. So that's why they're continuing to cross between the ports of entry. They don't want to wait anymore. So we put some policies in place for consequences to prevent these illegal crossings. We're going to continue to see this influx of people crossing the river. 

RUDY KOSKI: The governor hosted a delegation of other governors from across the country recently, What was the reaction that you saw from that visit from those individuals? 

LT. OLIVAREZ: I think it was very beneficial that they got to see firsthand what we're having to deal with in the state of Texas and also how every state is a border state. 

RUDY KOSKI: What's your message to governors who are from the Democratic Party that haven't come down and are complaining about the migrants that are being bussed up into their states and their cities? What's your message to them? 

LT. OLIVAREZ: Well, you know, I've always said that you have to visit the border. You have to see it firsthand and talk to law enforcement, talk to those individuals that are at the front lines every single day, but also spend a good amount of time at the border. You can't just pass through, do a photo op and then leave. 

RUDY KOSKI: Mm hmm. Yeah. Seeing is believing, but you've got to stay to really check it out.