Border crisis: Two more Texas counties declare invasion, bringing total to 55

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell Jr., who supported passing the resolution, said he did so because the county was experiencing a fentanyl poisoning crisis.
Migrants at southern border, El Paso, Texas, Dec. 22, 2022

Two more Texas counties have declared an invasion at the southern border, bringing the total to 55.

Denton and Williamson counties declared an invasion on March 5, passing short, one-page resolutions.

Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell Jr., who supported passing the resolution, said he did so because the county was experiencing a fentanyl poisoning crisis. The commissioner’s court “has made huge leaps to fund our fentanyl task force, led by one of our local detectives,” he said. “They’re doing an amazing job, but the reality is in Williamson County we have fentanyl poisoning on a weekly basis. I just want to say this: I'm tired of it.”

Three teenagers from the county died from fentanyl poisoning within a few months in 2022. Their parents created The Forever 15 Project and have testified before Congress. Another mother from the county, whose son was killed from fentanyl poisoning at 19, founded Texas Against Fentanyl. She has also testified about the fentanyl crisis and attended the State of the Union address Thursday night.

Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday night after the president's State of the Union address that American families “are grieving as a direct result of the Biden Administration’s inaction to secure our border and keep dangerous drugs and criminals off our streets.” Until the president does his job, Abbott argued, “Texas will hold the line and use every tool and strategy to keep our country safe.”

“We can say that the border crisis has nothing to do with Williamson County and as far as who's entering legally or illegally,” Gravell said. “But one thing that we can't disagree on is because of the border crisis, fentanyl is entering our country and it's killing our children. I'm a grandfather of five and I will use every tool at my disposal to protect that next generation. We have people that are working tirelessly in Williamson County to get drugs off of the street. I want to be clear, if you choose to come into our community … to kill our children then we choose to hold you accountable. God values our kids, and we value our children as well.”

He also said that Abbott “is at least one governor in America doing something.” Speaking to “whoemever the Republican [presidential] nominee might be,” Gravell said, “we have a crisis at the border in America, maybe you should consider Greg Abbott as your vice president because nobody else is doing a good job at it.”

Former President Donald Trump, the presumptive nominee, recently said he was open to the suggestion. Abbott replied that he was focused on “staying in Texas.”

Commissioner Valerie Covey, originally from Atascosa County, made the motion to approve the resolution, which passed by a vote of 3-1. Atascosa County Judge Weldon Cude has been encouraging counties to declare an invasion. Since his call, 11 counties have passed invasion resolutions, with more expected.

In Denton County, Judge Andy Eads said the resolution they passed “documents in a formal way what we have believed all along,” that the border crisis impacts their community. The resolution “is a way to memorialize this court's opinion during this time in the life of our history and the world that we're dealing with.”

He also addressed the Texas legislature allocating $11.5 billion to fund Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star. He said, “I'm glad the state is making those investments, but just imagine if they weren't having to invest $11 billion on this one issue what they could do for teachers, what they could do for classrooms, what they could do for the roads that we're building here in the county, reducing our tax burden here.”

U.S. Rep. Roger Williams, a Republican from north Texas who served as Texas’ Secretary of State under former Gov. Rick Perry, filed a bill that would require the federal government to reimburse Texas for its border security costs.

Both county resolutions express support for Abbott securing Texas’ border. Williamson County’s states it “commends Governor Greg Abbott for his dedication to securing the Texas border and for his proactive efforts to address the complex issues associated with illegal immigration and border security.” County officials also endorse “policies and initiatives aimed at enhancing border security and pledges our support for Governor Abbott's leadership in implementing these measures in the state of Texas.”

Denton County’s resolution states the commissioner’s court “recognizes our southern Texas border suffering an invasion which poses imminent danger; stands in full support of Governor Abbott, our Texas legislative delegation, and the state-led efforts of Operation Lone Star to defend Texas sovereignty and secure the Texas border.” The resolution, which passed unanimously, calls on the federal government “to uphold its duties to adequately secure and protect the borders of the United States.”

Williamson and Denton counties join 53 others that declared an invasion after Kinney, Goliad and Terrell counties were the first to do so on July 5, 2022. Sixty counties also issued disaster declarations after Kinney County was the first to do so on April 21, 2021.

Combined, nearly 100 counties have passed disaster declarations or invasion resolutions, or both, since April 2021.

According to resolutions The Center Square has obtained, 55 counties have declared an invasion: Atascosa, Bandera, Blanco, Burnet, Chambers, Clay, Collin, Crockett, Denton, Ector, Edwards, Ellis, Fannin, Franklin, Frio, Goliad, Guadalupe, Hamilton, Hardin, Harrison, Hood, Hunt, Jack, Jasper, Johnson, Karnes, Kinney, La Salle, Lavaca, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Madison, McMullen, Medina, Montague, Montgomery, Navarro, Orange, Parker, Presidio, Schleicher, Shackelford, Somervell, Terrell, Throckmorton, Tyler, Uvalde, Van Zandt, Waller, Wharton, Wichita, Williamson, Wilson and Wise.