Sheriffs testify before Texas House committee, request funding for border security

Texas sheriffs testifying before the House Appropriations Committee expressed an urgent need for funding to help with apprehensions of illegal immigrants committing crime sprees in their county and overwhelming their law enforcement agents.

Border security funding has been a bone of contention among the counties and the state, who after issuing a disaster declaration in April haven’t received the assistance they asked for.

In March, when launching Operation Lonestar, Gov. Greg Abbott said the legislature allocated $1 billion to the Texas Department of Public Safety to use toward border security efforts. Roughly 1,000 members of law enforcement and 500 members of the Texas Guard were initially deployed to support this effort.

But the $1 billion doesn’t include funding to help sheriffs in strapped counties.

The county disaster declarations requested that the governor provide “additional law enforcement to uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of their counties. They also requested that “the governor of Texas provide state military forces to aid in controlling conditions in the county by assisting the county sheriff in the enforcement of law and the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the county.”

Months later, DPS officers, Texas Rangers and members of the Texas Guard are not helping sheriffs pursue bailouts, which is when illegal immigrants being pursued in a car chase jump out of a car, run onto private property or into the brush and escape, according to local law enforcement in multiple counties along the border and hundreds of miles north of it.

Kinney County Attorney Brent Smith told The Center Square that his county “has not received anything that we requested from the governor on April 21.”

Abbott has met with sheriffs in Austin, Del Rio and other parts of the state. On Saturday, he held a phone call with members of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition and county judges from border communities and encouraged them to call on the legislature, which is meeting this week to discuss border security efforts. The legislature had not been able to conduct business for 37 days due to House Democrats fleeing the state.

Earlier this month, Abbott listed border security fifth on a list of 17 legislative priorities the legislature is tasked with addressing during the ongoing second special legislative session.

Smith and others have been asking why they’ve had to wait on the legislature when Abbott said $1 billion was allocated for border security.

“What about the $1 billion that was supposedly allocated to border security through the last legislature session? Lot of questions here without any clear answers,” he said.

The governor’s office has not replied to request for comment on the matter but mentioned during a July 10 briefing with sheriffs in Austin that he had asked “for additional appropriations from the state Legislature during the special session.” He requested funding in response to the “needs that the sheriffs have articulated, but also to fund in part additional strategies that will be conducted by the state of Texas” including a “comprehensive border security plan.”

At a briefing in Del Rio, Abbott blamed House Democrats who fled the state to break quorum as the reason why sheriffs don’t have the resources they need. “The Democrats are making it impossible for us to provide the funding that is needed at the local level. They need to come back, get back to work and do their job of providing the funding to the local counties that is needed to respond to a record-breaking change.”

On Tuesday, sheriffs testified at a House Appropriations Committee hearing.

“We are faced with unprecedented challenges,” Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez said. “This crisis is not going to stay on the border. It’s going to affect all of us in the state of Texas and all of us in the United States. I support these funds that are being allocated to secure our border.”

Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez said, “We’ve had a 140% increase in dead bodies, a 130% increase in 911 calls, over 200% increase in rescues. Any type of funding that’s provided will definitely help the county and border counties, or any other county for that matter, that has this issue, because it doesn’t stop there. We’re 70 miles north of the [Rio Grande] river, we do have a checkpoint, a lot of private land, and this is what’s occurring in our backyard. There’s a lack of manpower, there’s a lack of resources.”

In Zavala County, Sheriff Eusevio E. Salinas, Jr., said since January, “we have had over 90 vehicle pursuits. We are seeing a tremendous amount of traffic and it’s putting a delay time to answer our local [emergency] calls because we’re handling other calls. … If somebody calls that they have a trespasser or a suspicious person on their property, we don’t know if it’s an illegal alien, if it’s a criminal, or what – we respond to what we’re called to do, assist somebody that’s in distress.”

Presidio County Sheriff Danny C. Dominguez said since he’s been a sheriff, he’s “never seen anything like this. It’s unbelievable what we’ve seen. It’s costing our county a lot. Anything you all can do to help the border sheriffs in the state of Texas and the nation will be a great asset.”

“It’s undeniable that all of us in the law enforcement community in the state of Texas, all of us are strained,” Jackson County Sheriff and President of Texas Sheriffs’ Regional Alliance A.J. Louderback said.

Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd said, “It’s not just a border problem, this problem is inundating all of us. It is in our community. This has never happened in my 28 years of law enforcement. It’s a huge humanitarian issue. Something has to be done.”

Once the House committee addresses border security funding, the full House will take up the issue.

This article was originally posted on Sheriffs testify before Texas House committee, request funding for border security

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