Since at least 2004, the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has been lavishing discretionary funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on vendors and contractors from the defense industry and procuring military equipment supposedly for "border security" despite the fact that securing the border is the responsibility of the U.S. Border Patrol. From 2011-2012, Texas DPS purchased six 34-foot shallow water boats for $3.5 million dollars for their "Tactical Marine Unit" to patrol parts of the Rio Grande and the Intercoastal Waterway between Padre Island and the mainland. The watercraft were equipped with night vision capabilities, ballistic shielding and up to six FN M240B 7.62x51mm NATO machine guns. The boats were each named in honor of a DPS trooper killed in the line of duty in various parts of the state. None of the posthumously honored troopers were killed along the border by foreign nationals or drug smugglers.

By 2014, Texas DPS had acquired a Bell UH-1 Iroquois or "Huey" helicopter, two Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles and two Cadillac Gage Commando V-150 amphibious armored personnel carriers according to their property records. Texas DPS also acquired two high-altitude reconnaissance planes with thermal imaging and other surveillance equipment, one for $7.4 million in 2012 and another one for $8.1 million in 2016. In 2018, it was reported that Texas DPS was patrolling the Rio Grande with 13 boats and 76 personnel.

The justification for the military equipment is not entirely clear. Since at least the early 1980s, not a single DPS employee has been killed in the line of duty along the border from violence "spilling over" from Mexico according to Texas DPS records cross-referenced with media reports. In November of 2016, a DPS trooper was hit in the hip by a stray bullet from the police in Tamaulipas. His injuries were not life threatening and he made a full recovery and received a "purple heart" from the state of Texas. The trooper later sued "The United Mexican States, The Free and Sovereign State of Tamaulipas, and the Tamaulipas State Police of Mexico" for $120 million, claiming that the shooting was "malicious and intentional" and a consequence of "Mexico's anti-American" policies and sentiments by Mexican officials. Specifically, the trooper took issue with former Presidents Vicente Fox and Enrique Peña Nieto's criticism of President Donald Trump's policies such as the border wall built to "protect the United States from illegal immigration and drug smuggling." The lawsuit alleges that statements made by the former presidents comparing Trump to Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini "culminated in an attempt to kill a Texas Ranger to send a message of hostility to the United States."

Texas DPS trooper receiving a "purple heart" after being struck by a stray bullet from the Tamaulipas police (InForney.com)

In a publication from Texas DPS about "Significant Border Incidents" which listed 19 episodes of mostly routine criminal activity that law enforcement throughout the world deals with, the only incident involving Texas DPS run-ins with foreign nationals or drug smugglers along the border between 2008 and 2014 was one instance of "aggressive posture encountered" by the Tactical Marine Unit in 2014.

The public has not fared as well. In October of 2012, a "designated marksman" with the Texas Department of Public Safety opened fire from a helicopter on a fleeing truck. The truck was driven by a 14-year-old Mexican national and was not carrying drugs but rather migrants from Guatemala. Neither the driver nor the passengers were armed. Hiding under a tarp in the back of the truck, three of the migrants were struck by gunfire from the trooper's Texas-made 16" LaRue Tactical Optimized Battle Rifle in 7.62x51mm NATO kitted out with an Advanced Armament Company 7.62-SDN-6 silencer, an Aimpoint Comp M4 red dot sight in a LaRue Tactical LT659 quick-detach mount (a non-magnified optic for close to intermediate range engagements), an L-3 Insight AN/PEQ-15 infrared laser illuminator in flat dark earth and a matching Tango Down quick-detach vertical fore grip.

Texas DPS "designated marksman" (Texas Observer)
Video of the Texas DPS designated marksman "going hot" on a truck full of unarmed migrants (Texas Observer)

Hiding under a canvas tarp in the bed of the red Ford F-150 extended cab, two of the "fuckin' IAs", as the helicopter pilot called them in the video of the incident, Marcos Antonio Castro Estrada and Jose Leonardo Coj Cumar, were ultimately killed by the trooper's reckless gunfire. Journalist Melissa del Bosque wrote an outstanding piece about the story in 2015 for the Texas Observer.

Jose Leonardo's brother who was taken into custody (the infamous "hielera"/"icebox") immediately after the incident eventually deduced that his brother was dead. He was deported after 7 months in custody. Separate probes of the incident by state and federal investigators eventually cleared the trooper that killed the two men of any wrongdoing.

In another incident in 2011, Texas DPS troopers in the Tactical Marine Unite fired over 300 rounds across the river after claiming (initially) they had come under heavy fire. Texas DPS later revised the story and asserted that a group of marijuana smugglers had thrown rocks and fired "at least 6" shots at the troopers who then responded by shooting over 300 rounds of 7.62x51mm NATO across the international border. No deaths or injuries resulting from the incident were reported publicly. In yet another incident in 2013, Texas DPS troopers launched flash bang grenades and tear gas and fired approximately 150 rounds from a belt-fed M240B machine gun and rifles across the Rio Grande into Mexico following reports earlier in the day that the U.S. Border Patrol had come under fire. One of the troopers claimed he had "heard and felt" at least two rounds zip past him which led him to open fire. Texas DPS officials refused to release details about where the incident had occurred but no deaths or injuries were reported publicly.

A Texas DPS trooper handling an FN M240B machine gun (Texas Tribune, photo credit: Marjorie Kamys Cotera)

Recently, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton traveled to the border for a photo op and publicity stunt with Fox Business channel host Maria Bartiromo. They filmed a segment with the Texas DPS Tactical Marine Unit on one of the boats equipped with four M240B belt-fed machine guns. No one was injured or killed during the stunt.