As U.S. Border Patrol officers stand down amid swelling waves of illegal aliens, Texas has declared a disaster in 34 counties, nearly tripling the number of affected counties from just a month ago. Gov. Greg Abbott’s action:
- Authorizes use of state and local resources to protect life and property.
- Directs the Department of Public Safety to enforce all federal and state criminal laws.
- Provides waivers to expand capacity at detention facilities.
Ahead of Abbott’s declaration, one South Texas county was already charging migrants with trespassing, evading arrest, reckless endangerment and other offenses. “If [President Joe] Biden is not going to enforce the law, then we’re going to try to enforce our own state laws,” said Kinney County Attorney Brent Smith.
Sheriff Brad Coe’s office recently filed child endangerment charges against a woman who bailed out of a vehicle pulled over by a deputy. The migrant had grabbed her 7-year-old and ran into the brush without food or water.
As elected officials, sheriffs have broad law-enforcement powers. This chafes leftwing activists who consider the office to be “a singularly troubling and problematic position of authority.” Yet even the toughest sheriffs are hedged by legal constraints and logistical realities.
Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Louderback told FAIR in an interview that Texas needs “all hands on deck in this government-manufactured crisis.” Abbott’s declaration can marshal resources, but Kinney County’s experience highlights the limits of local authority.
Take an illegal alien arrested on trespassing charges, for example. County Attorney Smith can charge the migrant with a Class B misdemeanor, which can be elevated if the individual had a deadly weapon or is found more than 100 feet inside agricultural property. A guilty plea typically results in release with time served (two to three days). The migrant is then turned over to Border Patrol, which, under Biden administration policies, allows even criminals to continue their trek into the United States.
Local action by sheriffs and Abbott’s declaration may slow, but will not stop, this revolving door — leaving frustrated Texans to wonder about the efficacy of spending their tax dollars on a federal problem.
Last month, the governor asked beleaguered counties to compile their costs caused by illegal border crossers so he could forward the bill to the White House. Any bets on how that request for reimbursement will be received?