(The Center Square) – Four Texas counties have issued disaster declarations and called on the governor for help because of escalated crime in their communities resulting from a surge in illegal immigration.
In response, Gov. Greg Abbott has asked counties and state agencies to report the financial costs to his office in an attempt to be reimbursed by the federal government for the strain being placed on law enforcement. Abbott launched Operation Lone Star last month in an effort to divert Texas DPS, Ranger, and National Guard resources to the border to reduce cartel- and other-related crimes stemming from the surge of illegal immigrants crossing the border.
Atascosa, Goliad, Kinney, and La Salle have issued disaster declarations, saying the “health, life, and property” of their residents are “under imminent threat of disaster from the human trafficking occurring on our border with Mexico.”
While three of the counties are located 40 to 200 miles north of the border, only Kinney sits on the international border and is a direct smuggling route from Del Rio to San Antonio. All counties report that their law enforcement and other county resources are inundated with cross-border crime and human smuggling on a daily basis.
Goliad County’s sheriff Roy Boyd said the county, located 200 miles north of the border, is being used as a staging point for smugglers to bring people illegally to Houston.
“What happens is they’ll bring them up from the border to somewhere in this area. They’ll drop them off at a temporary holding site and then someone from Houston comes and picks them up and then takes them to Houston, where they’re distributed across the United States,” he said.
“The ongoing border crisis has resulted in thousands of illegal aliens invading South Texas and overwhelming our local, state, and federal law enforcement,” the Goliad County declaration reads. Goliad, one of the birth places of the Texas revolution, is sacred ground to many Texans, second to the Alamo.
“This continual violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity has resulted in residents of South Texas being assaulted, threatened with violence, and robbed, while also sustaining vast amounts of property damage,” the declaration reads.
The counties are requesting that Abbott deploy additional law enforcement personnel and state military forces to help them respond to the surge of crime and humanitarian crises they are dealing with.
Goliad County Judge Mike Bennett signed the county’s declaration, saying he expects 200 or more of Texas’s 254 counties to follow suit.
“We don’t have a lot of redundancy in these small counties and it’s taking up every bit of their resources,” Bennett said at a public meeting held in Westache on April 22.
“I’ve never seen anything quite like this,” Bennett said. “Things pretty much started drying up on the border during the last administration. Things were pretty much under control. Well, that came to a real fast end, and it’s the Wild West on steroids.”
Boyd said he had no confidence that anyone in the Biden administration will do anything about illegal immigration.
“I’d much rather see the federal government get off their duff and do something about this, but, I’m sorry, I have no faith," he said. "It’s going to have to come from the state of Texas. If the state doesn’t do something, it’s all going to be over.”
Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe said he has only six full-time deputies to cover 1,400 square miles.
“We can’t do it,” he said. “My guys have been in more pursuits in the past year than most police officers will do in a lifetime. We’re catching more and more every day. We file charges, [then] we have to let them go because our jails are full.”
On April 23, Coe's office posted on Facebook that, “In less than 18 hours, Kinney County Sheriff’s Deputies have encountered 5 human trafficking cases and 1 stolen vehicle.”
Kinney County attorney Brent Smith said Texas should act on its own to enforce border security.
“It is my opinion that an emergency declaration by Governor Abbott or the Texas Legislature would authorize Texas to take certain steps in the enforcement of its own borders and the protection of its citizens’ health, safety, and welfare,” Smith argues.
In Lavaca County, which has not yet declared a disaster, Judge Mark Myers said since January, more than 13 pickup trucks have been stolen, and seven high-speed pursuits ended in crashes in the county. Three illegal immigrants were airlifted to hospitals.
“This all costs taxpayer money, because illegal aliens don’t pay that bill – you do,” Myers said, adding that it costs $40,000 to airlift one person.
“This is not a sustainable future. We cannot do this.”
Myers is urging Texans to “flood the telephone network” of their representatives in Austin, arguing, “The governor needs to act on this, and he needs to treat it as what it is, which is an invasion of our nation. This is an act of war.”