Though Kinney is far and away the Lone Star leader in jailing migrants, officials estimate they’ve stopped less than 5 percent of aliens who have passed through the rural county (pop. 3,600). Amid the onslaught, Sheriff Brad Coe is deputizing Kinney County residents to bolster his thin blue line.
Stepping up efforts elsewhere, Gov. Greg Abbott has authorized 3,000 National Guard troops to apprehend migrants who cross border fences erected by the state. The fencing along 142 parcels of private ranchlands serves as a tripwire to nab illegal aliens.
Texas law officers started arresting migrants on trespassing and other state and local charges over the summer as part of Operation Lone Star. But so far only Kinney County has been serious about prosecuting them. Of 826 migrants housed in two designated state detention centers, Kinney accounted for 710. The remaining 116 came from just three other small counties. The larger border counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Webb and El Paso have not sent any.
Since little state fencing has been installed in those more urbanized jurisdictions, National Guard involvement there figures to be slight. Additionally:
- Troops only detain adult males, allowing all others, including unaccompanied children, to pass through.
- Local prosecutors retain sole discretion on whether to press charges.
In Val Verde County, next door to Kinney, Prosecutor David Martinez said that out of 231 migrant arrests there since July, he rejected 105 because, in his judgment, none caused harm to the landowner. He cut plea deals with 50 others, and recommended that none get jail time beyond what they’d already spent in custody.
Bear in mind that Val Verde is one of just four counties that has put any migrants into the state detention centers. As a result, some 1,200 beds remain empty at the two facilities, even as Texas led a record-setting year for Border Patrol encounters.
Ultimately, the Biden administration decides what to do with arrestees after they’re released. Though the Department of Homeland Security has not provided statistics, Martinez, a Democrat, says the migrants are routinely paroled into the U.S. to pursue asylum claims.
While National Guard deployments (costing Texas taxpayers roughly $1 million a month) and state fencing (scheduled to extend across 300 miles of borderlands) represent enhanced levels of deterrence, the state’s efforts, however well intentioned, amount to little more than speed bumps on illegal aliens’ road into this country.