Texas counties that requested disaster aid for border crisis haven’t got it, officials say

Governor Abbott allocated $1 billion to the Texas Department of Public Safety and 1,000 members of law enforcement to secure the border.

Updated: August 21, 2021 - 11:23pm

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

While Texas Gov. Greg Abbott this spring allocated $1 billion in border security funds to the state's Department of Public Safety and 1,000 members of law enforcement to secure the border, counties that made disaster declarations over the illegal migrant crisis say they still haven't received the resources they sought four months later.

"Kinney County has not received anything that we requested from the governor on April 21," County Attorney Brent Smith told Just The News. "We have heard promises and have been told that all the resources that we so desperately require are available, but thus far, nothing has been delivered. Empty promises don’t keep our residents safe. Empty promises don’t secure our border."

The disaster declarations requested that the governor provide “additional law enforcement to uphold the sovereignty and territorial integrity” of their counties. They also requested that “the governor of Texas provide state military forces to aid in controlling conditions in the county aby assisting the county sheriff in the enforcement of law and the preservation of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the county.”

Yet months later, DPS officers, Texas Rangers and members of the Texas Guard are not helping sheriffs pursue bailouts, which is when illegal aliens jump out of a car, run onto private property or into the brush and escape, according to local law enforcement in multiple counties along the border and hundreds of miles north of it.

Just the News made repeated requests for comment from Abbott’s office that went unanswered.  But the governor’s office suddenly arranged a phone call Saturday afternoon with members of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition and county judges from border communities to discuss border security. 

After being unable to conduct business for 37 days because of absconding House Democrats, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up border security funding this week, the governor said. On the call, he urged the sheriffs and county judges to explain the urgency of receiving funding to committee members. 

Border security funding is listed fifth on a list of 17 legislative priorities Abbott directed the legislature to address when he called for a second special legislative session August 5.  

But Smith and others have asked why are they waiting on the legislature when Abbott said $1 billion was allocated for border security.

“What about the $1 billion that was supposedly allocated to border security through the last legislature session? Lot of questions here without any clear answers,” Smith said.

At a July 10 briefing with sheriffs in Austin after Democrats fled the state, Abbott said he had asked "for additional appropriations from the state Legislature during the special session to, in part, fund the needs that the sheriffs have articulated, but also to fund in part additional strategies that will be conducted by the state of Texas" including a "comprehensive border security plan."

Ahead of the first special legislative session, which convened in July and sputtered when Democratic House members absconded, Abbott and the Texas Department of Emergency Management asked counties to submit a border crisis budget with projected expenses for the next two years.

Despite them doing so, money hasn't been allocated because the Legislature is responsible for funding allocation.

The standoff left sheriffs and counties on the front lines of the border crisis without the resources they requested. Counties submitted their requests to TDEM in the beginning of July.

Meanwhile, county sheriffs are being inundated with crime sprees, car chases and bailouts with not enough police presence to help and in some cases, with a state agency working against them.

In Goliad County, Sheriff Roy Boyd told Just The News he's been putting up signs next to roadways that the Texas Department of Transportation has taken down.  

The signs are posted in the grass next to highway, which state in Spanish, "Warning! Traffickers of humans and drugs! Turn around and go around. Do not enter Goliad County or we will hunt you down and throw you in jail."

When asked to confirm that transportation department was removing the signs, Rickey Dailey, an agency spokesperson, told Just The News, "The Texas Department of Transportation's top priority is safety and we are committed to the safety of the traveling public.

"TxDOT follows state and federal laws that are designed to ensure that the public right-of-way along Texas roadways are clear of hazards and distractions. With safety as the guiding principle, the placement of signs, and other structures, along roadways must adhere to strict standards. This includes safety features such as guardrails and breakaway signposts."

But Sheriff Boyd disputes that interpretation, citing Section 394.003 of the Texas transportation safety code, the Lady Bird Johnson Safety Act, which pertains to signage and highway right-of-ways.

Subsection 3 of this section provides an exemption to the law for the safety and wellbeing of the citizens and the community and subsection 6 states that all political subdivisions are exempt from the law, meaning the county can put up signs.

Boyd says he did legal due diligence before putting up the signs and argues there are millions of plastic corrugated signs with metal t-posts in the ground along the roads of Texas, which pose no safety issues.

Likewise, TxDOT allows 55 gallons of water t-posted into the ground next to the roadway for illegal immigrants to use but is actively taking down only his signs warning against human smuggling.

When asked about how the signs pose more of a safety issue than the safety issue of preventing and pursuing human trafficking, Dailey did not respond.  

Goliad County Attorney Rob Baiamonte has requested an official opinion on the matter from Attorney General Ken Paxton's office. Paxton has supported law enforcement's efforts to crack down on human trafficking and aggressively pursued smugglers as part of a major initiative of his office.

In addition to the dispute with TxDOT, Boyd said he and his deputies, responsible for covering 849 square miles roughly 150 miles north of the southern border, haven't gotten the help they’ve asked for from the state.

He told Just The News that they need DPS officers patrolling the highways pursuing human and drug traffickers in a thoroughfare heavily traveled by illegal immigrants and criminals making their way north. Only one state trooper in the area is responsible for patrolling three counties.

Boyd also described what his deputies deal with on a daily basis.

A week ago, two deputies who were off duty, heard a call over the radio and responded to pursue an illegal immigrant speeding through town in a truck that drove through seven fences on private property before individuals bailed out and evaded capture. In another car chase, seven men were crammed into a small hatchback and arrested, he said.

Last Monday, officers were in pursuit of another bailout with seven illegal immigrants on the loose in the brush. No DPS officers, no Texas Rangers and no Texas National Guard are helping sheriffs pursue bailouts where illegal immigrants run onto private property or into the brush, according to local law enforcement.

Sheriffs throughout Texas have posted on social their frustration as well as videos of car chases, daily arrests and photos of alleged criminals.

Earlier this month in Refugio, a town south of Goliad, officers caught 31 illegal aliens crammed inside of a U-Haul van. Many tested positive for COVID-19 and were picked up by border patrol agents.

Jackson County Sheriff A.J. Lauderback says the explosion of crime happened overnight within a few hours of President Joe Biden reversing the Trump administration border policy.

Lauderback's county stretches along the I-59 corridor from Corpus Christi to Houston, where he says the largest human trafficking hub is located in Texas and used hourly by the Mexican cartels.

Lavaca County, which shares a county border with Jackson County, 275 miles north of the border, "isn't what you would consider as a border county,” Sheriff Micah Harmon said. "But we are affected by the border crisis every day. We deal with pursuits, bailouts, human smuggling, narcotics, and all of that is coming up highways in his county."

In Texas Borderlands, produced by Paxton's office, sheriffs describe how illegal immigration is wreaking havoc throughout Texas. Sheriffs say their constituents are afraid and have been abandoned by the federal government and Democrats absconding from their duties in Austin are only making matters worse.

Smith says Texans "want safety for their families. Safety's not a political issue. It's a human issue."

Boyd says illegal immigration is a constitutional issue.

“The Declaration of Independence says, ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’

"How are you supposed to have that if you can’t enjoy where you live? How can you pursue happiness when you can't leave your house, when you have to worry about people driving through your property and destroying it? ," he asked. "The federal government is violating our rights working with foreign entities to bring all of these people in to terrorize our communities. It's transitioning us into a Marxist government."