Frequent lockdowns from illegal-immigrant chases may have led residents of Uvalde, Texas to downplay alerts and created a “diminished sense of vigilance,” according to a scathing report from the Texas House of Representatives.
Between February and May of this year, Uvalde had just under 50 lockdowns, most of which were not because of an active shooter, but because of high-speed chases between Border Patrol and illegal immigrants.
In the months since the May shooting at Robb Elementary, where 19 children and two teachers were killed, Uvalde citizens have spoken about the failings of the lockdown policy.
Jazmin Cazares, whose 9-year-old sister was killed in the shooting, told Texas lawmakers last month that nobody took the lockdowns seriously, until that day.
“That’s what it probably was, just complacency, because it does happen on a frequent basis,” Uvalde County Justice of the Peace Eulalio Diaz Jr. said.
Lockdown drills have become increasingly prevalent in the U.S. over the past 20 years. However, South Texas towns like Uvalde have to deal with a different kind of lockdown due to their proximity to the southern border.
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The alert sent out to Robb Elementary teachers when a lockdown is in place does not specify the sort of threat they are facing.
As a result, according to the state probe, many on the day of the shooting assumed it was another “bailout,” a term used by Border Patrol to describe immigrants or drug traffickers who are fleeing police.
Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo told the Texas House Committee that he had considered at the time that the lockdown at the school could have been the result of a “bailout” since it happens so often.
Uvalde is just one hour away from the southern border so “bailouts” are a relatively common occurrence, especially since immigrant activity has surged recently at the border.
Though many who travel across the southern border turn themselves over to Border Patrol, many others try to avoid capture, which is where “bailouts” come into play.
Although the report says there were no instances of “bailout” violence on Uvalde school grounds, high-speed chases often have passed Uvalde schools parking lots and some pursuits involved gunfire in the surrounding neighborhoods.
While the Robb Elementary shooting has sparked debate on issues of school safety and gun legislation, the apparent failure of lockdown policy has added a debate on border policing into the mix.
Some, like Mr. Diaz, have blamed Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border enforcement policies for contributing to an unsafe atmosphere in the Uvalde school district.
“These people who are coming through don’t want to be in Uvalde. They are looking to get away from the border and we’re too close,” Mr. Diaz said.
In 2017, a report from the Justice Department found that police chases kill on average 355 people annually, with one-third of those killed not being involved in the chase.
However, as the start of the 2022-23 school year looms, Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin has called on Mr. Abbott to do more to stop migrant crossings at the border in an effort to ensure the safety of Uvalde schools.
“This report is not all the answers, but it’s the most truthful they’ve been to this point,” Mr. McLaughlin said.