Sheriff: Gov. Abbott’s vision for border wall, arrests may not happen in his border county


(AP Photo/Eric Gay)

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (KVEO) — Gov. Greg Abbott has announced initial plans for a border wall to be built across the Texas-Mexico border and is demanding everyone who crosses the barrier be arrested, but one sheriff says this will be a tough task in his county.

At a Wednesday press conference, Abbott stated he is allocating $1 billion for increased border security, which includes a tentative plan to construct a border wall across the state’s border with Mexico.

This announcement comes a week after the governor stated he wants to arrest “everybody coming across the border.”

And while Abbott’s plans garnered a round of applause from those in attendance at his Wednesday press conference in Del Rio, some leaders across the border are concerned if his ideas will be possible.

Brewster County Sheriff Ronny Dodson is worried about how his department will be able to detain everyone who crosses his large, sparsely populated border county that’s mostly covered by national parks.

Ronny Dodson, Brewster County Sheriff

“We only have two roads going to Mexico. Everything else is privately owned land,” Dodson said. “Troopers are not going to be able to arrest many because most are not allowed in private ranches.”

Brewster County is Texas’s largest county with more than 6,000 square miles of land. However, its population is just over 9,000.

Most of the county’s area near the border is without roads and people. The closest town to the border in the county is Alpine, a five thousand person city more than 100 miles from the Rio Grande.

With this in mind, Dodson sees it as a tough challenge to corral every person who comes across the border illegally.

Additionally, Dodson worries that their county jail does not have the space to house the people that would be arrested for crossing the border.

“[Gov. Abbott] wants to add 10,000 spaces jail spaces for immigrants. I have a 54-bed jail and there’s 50 inmates right now,” Dodson said. “If we were to arrest five people, I’m full and the jail commission comes after me.”

Abbott also announced that he is working to amend the criminal trespass charge to become a Class B Misdemeanor, rather than just a Class C violation. If this change is passed, migrants arrested and found guilty of this crime would spend a minimum of 180 days in jail.

However, Dodson says the reality of things actually happening the way Abbott envisioned them is doubtful.

“The reality is if they come in the judge will set a PR bond and they will be out before nightfall,” said Dodson. “There’s a lot that was talked about that needs to be worked through to see if it’s really going to work.”

Dodson said that the governor is asking for county sheriffs to turn in a budget for what needs the county has to ramp up border security so that funds can be allocated correctly. However, he stated that state leaders were not clear on what they are supposed to ask for.

The Rio Grande river that marks the boundary between the United States (to the right of the river ) and Mexico (to the left) is seen on January 17, 2019, in Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“Are we talking about building jail space, officers, equipment, what are we talking about,” asked Dodson. “I don’t want to throw away good money to nothing.”

He is also unsure of how a border wall will be built in Brewster County. Despite Abbott’s adamant claims that the wall will be built across the border, Dodson says it will be a large challenge in his county.

“We can’t do something like that here because of the big national park,” said Dodson. “It would kill our tourism and that’s all we’ve got here.”

Brewster County is home to portions of Big Bend National Park, one of West Texas’s most prominent landmarks.

Even though Dodson sees issues with these initial plans, he hopes that Abbott and his team will be able to work it out and create a solution to the border security issue.

Abbott has formed a task force for border and homeland security that looks to address the surge of migrants coming into the state.

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The mission of is to provide real-time delivery of the untold local stories about people living, working and migrating along the U.S. border with Mexico. The information is gathered by experienced and trusted Nexstar Media Group journalists hired specifically to cover the border.