McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Zapata County Sheriff Ray Del Bosque said he felt he was among friends who understand his “crisis” situation when he and 11 law enforcement leaders sat down to discuss border security with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Saturday in Austin.
With border security on the agenda for the special session at the Texas capitol, Del Bosque said that he and other law enforcement leaders whose counties are on or near the border with Mexico are counting on the Legislature to come up with funds to help them.
But after Democrats walked out of the Legislature on Monday in defiance of a controversial voting rights bill, and a majority have left the state, it’s uncertain whether, or if, lawmakers will return in time to take up border security before the 30-day session is up.
“Right now, Zapata (County) has limited resources and we need all the help we can get during this crisis,” Del Bosque told Border Report via phone. “It is overwhelming to my officers.”
Del Bosque, like the other sheriffs who met for two and a half hours on Saturday, said they believe Abbott will help to get state and federal reimbursements for counties, like Zapata, that have issued disaster declarations due to costs from the immigration influx.
Much of these costs center around damages to farms and ranches, cattle and livestock, from car chases and bailouts, as human traffickers and drug smugglers coming from South of the border try to race through rural parts of the borderlands bringing their loads north.
But with the Special Session in limbo, it’s clear that those funds are not a guarantee. And Del Bosque says politics should not deter state leaders from doing what is right.
“It shouldn’t have any political side to it. It should have a humanitarian and a better quality of life view for the citizens and all the states and the communities here in Texas and the whole nation,” he said.
Abbott, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, and Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd last weekend met with Del Bosque and sheriff’s and leaders from the following Texas counties: Culberson, Kinney, Presidio, Dimmit, Val Verde, Zavala, Lubbock, Goliad and McMullen.
“Our efforts would not be possible without our partnership with local law enforcement. With their support, we are working tirelessly to stop the influx of unlawful immigrants and prevent the smuggling of contraband into the state. But more help is needed, which is why I called for legislation this Special Session to provide more border security funding for law enforcement and counties. This funding will help us better step up to meet this challenge and gives our border communities the resources and support they need. I strongly urge the legislature to take up this issue, and I thank our law enforcement partners for their continued efforts to secure the border,” Abbott said in a statement.
Del Bosque said that during the meeting, Abbott asked sheriffs to help his administration earmark farmers and ranchers who might be amenable to allowing their borderlands to be used for putting up a fence or barrier.
Abbott in June announced during a Border Security Summit he held in Del Rio, Texas, that the state would pick up the mantle left by the Trump administration and build a wall or fence along the Texas-Mexico border.
“Because of the current administration’s complete abandonment, they have left it to the state of Texas as well as to the counties who are representing today to have them pick up the load of responding to the unprecedented number of people coming into our country,” Abbott said in a video of the briefing.
The vast majority of South Texas lands along the Rio Grande are privately owned. That includes 95% in Zapata County, which is a rural ranching county.
“The governor said for us to speak to speak to farmers and ranchers where we can have an insight and he can probably reach out to them through my office and we can meet w them and we can see where we can start,” Del Bosque said regarding attaining land rights.
It was clear from the two-and-a-half-hour meeting that Abbott needs the buy-in from sheriffs as much as the sheriffs say they need funding from Abbott. But with lawmakers AWOL, those plans are now definitely on hold.
In the meantime, Del Bosque said on Monday that the Zapata County Commissioners’ Court approved a resolution to help farmers and ranchers who have suffered losses.
Because there are no incorporated areas in Zapata County, there is no city police force and the sheriff’s office has the burden for all patrols and responses for this sprawling county with a population of just 15,000.
The initiative is a collaboration with the Zapata County District Attorney, county judge, and county attorney he said.
“We’re going to start helping our ranchers and farmers with all this damages to their fences during the car chases,” Del Bosque said. “It’s a recurring theme when the fences get damaged because of human smuggling and car chases.”