ZAPATA, Texas (Border Report) — U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, was all smiles and made a lot of people smile on Monday as he announced $375,000 in border security funding for local law enforcement in this South Texas rural ranching community.

Cuellar presented a check from the federal government at the start of Monday’s Zapata County Commissioners’ meeting. The funds are from the Fiscal Year 2023 budget appropriated by Congress, and not from the current budget debate that is raging in Congress right now for Fiscal Year 2024, which if not resolved by month’s end could lead to a government shutdown.

The money presented Monday is from Operation Stonegarden, which provides federal funds to pay overtime and augment equipment costs for local law enforcement agencies on the border to assist U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Border Patrol agents patrol the U.S.-Mexico border.

Cuellar told Border Report the money is “extremely important especially when budgets are tight. This will allow them to provide overtime for the personnel. So they can provide more security; gives them maintenance costs, and lets them buy equipment. So for a small community like Zapata, or let’s say, Jim Hogg (County), or even Starr (County), this is a blessing in itself.”

Cuellar said that since Operation Stonegarden began in 2008, over $9.7 million have been earmarked for Zapata County — a small ranching county with just 15,000 residents that is an hour east of Laredo and two hours west of McAllen, Texas.

“This program has been highly successful,” said Cuellar, ranking member on the House Appropriations Homeland Security Subcommittee. “We’re trying to add if we can keep the government open. We’re trying to make sure that we add more money to Stonegarden so we can reinforce what the people do here in Zapata.”

The delivery of funds come as South Texas is at the epicenter of a surge of migrants entering from Mexico.

“It’s going to be crucial to us right now because everything is changing on the border,” Zapata Sheriff Raymundo Del Bosque told Border Report. “It’s going to help us with overtime, equipment and resources so we can provide better border security.”

Del Bosque says the funds help supplement overtime for his 30 deputies. With no incorporated areas in Zapata County, there are no police forces, only sheriff’s deputies in this county.

Sandra Sanchez can be reached at