DEL RIO, Texas (Nexstar) — On Monday, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn (R – TX) met with local leaders and law enforcement to discuss how the current crisis at our state’s southern border is impacting border communities.
He’s trying to spark momentum for the Bipartisan Border Solutions Act, which would establish four new processing centers and add staffing to help process migrants to relieve local criminal justice systems.
Thousands of Texas DPS and National Guardsmen have been deployed all across the southern border as part of Operation Lone Star, Governor Greg Abbott’s response to the record-setting crossings the state has seen so far this year.
“We should have about 25 to 30 troopers that are stationed here in Del Rio,” Juan Maldonado with DPS said Monday.
The governor has also granted troopers and guardsmen the ability to arrest migrants for criminal trespassing.
“We have over 1400 arrests since the beginning of Operation Lone Star through Nov. 7,” Maldonado said.
But those arrests are overwhelming local law enforcement. Val Verde County Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez pointed out the financial impact alone for his county jail.
“Since Operation Lone Star came in and started arresting all these individuals for human smuggling, now the county incurred a loss of revenue from the jail of almost a quarter million dollars,” Martinez said.
It’s also leading local judges and attorneys to work overtime.
“In Kinney County, they were prosecuting 10 cases a year. They went from 10 to about 800,” DPS Cpt. Joel Bettencourt told Sen. Cornyn Monday.
Bettencourt and other local leaders said they did not have the infrastructure locally to handle the surge they’ve seen, which included 15,000 migrants waiting under a bridge to cross into Del Rio in September.
“The fact that these migrants showed up in Del Rio was not an accident. It was intentional by the smugglers, because they know they can flood the zone and overwhelm the capacity of local communities and of law enforcement,” Sen. Cornyn said.
Even with Operation Lone Star, it’s not serving as enough of a deterrent to keep migrants from crossing.
“We’ve actually interviewed several hundreds of the persons that were arrested at the facility. There is a deterrence factor. However, it’s not significant enough, you know, to stop them from coming,” Bettencourt said.
He and other local leaders are hoping for more help from the federal government.
“I’ll take the stories I heard here back with me to try to move the needle and hopefully make some progress,” Sen. Cornyn said.
“Hopefully you can find somebody in DC that will listen,” Sheriff Martinez said.