Several sheriffs testified in a House Appropriations Committee hearing on Tuesday that discussed mitigation and funding for challenges U.S.-Mexico border communities are facing.
Gov. Abbott has named security funding as a priority item in the first and second Special Sessions of 2021. Sheriffs and county judges were called from bordering communities to speak on the need for additional funding.
"We are faced with unprecedented challenges ... this crisis is not going to stay on the border," said Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez. "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."
Testimonies include expressed concern for the crisis moving beyond the border due to lack of resources.
"We've had a 140 percent increase in dead bodies, a 130 percent increase in 9-1-1 calls, over 200 percent increase in rescues," said Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez. "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."
One effort launched in early March, Operation Lone Star, employs additional law enforcement at the border and has reported 4,600 arrests by the Texas Department of Public Safety.
"In my county alone since January, we have had over 90 vehicle pursuits," said Zavala County Sheriff Eusevio E. Salinas, Jr. "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. When a landowner calls 9-1-1, unfortunately, it rings at our office — it doesn’t ring at the border patrol station, it doesn’t ring at the DPS communications, it rings at our office. So we are the initial call.
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."
Since its launch, Operation Lone Star reports over 700 pounds of cocaine and 127 pounds of deadly fentanyl seized.
"The Governor's initiative that he has put in place is legitimate, it's valid, it's necessary," said Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback. "These are issues that I hear about weekly, daily, morning to evening, from sheriffs all across the state of Texas who are engaging with limited resources. It's undeniable that all of us in the law enforcement community in the state of Texas, all of us are strained."