(The Center Square)
The US House Committee on Energy and Commerce held its first Joint Office on Investigations and Health Subcommittee field hearing in McAllen, Texas, examining the ongoing crisis at the southern border.
Brooks County, Texas, Sheriff Benny Martinez’s deputies testified to the record number of bodies found, the cost to the county of more than $1 million, hundreds of thousands of dollars in property damage to residents, and record numbers of human and drug trafficking that occurred. President Joe Biden was in office.
He said Wednesday that the unique challenges facing his rural county, about 70 miles north of McAllen, are “a national security issue, a public health issue and a humanitarian issue.” And it stems from foreign nationals from more than 150 countries who enter the U.S. illegally between ports of entry seeking to evade law enforcement, he said.
Subcommittee Chairman, US Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Virginia, said it was important for the committee to convene in Texas “to shine a light on the brutal and unsustainable conditions this president’s administration has created at our border. No country in the world manages its borders the way this administration has chosen.
The chairwoman of the full committee, US Rep. Cathy McMorris Rogers, R-WA, said the president’s “open borders agenda is putting Americans across this country at risk and turning every town into a border town.”
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When people travel by car north on Highway 281 from McAllen, they should stop by the Border Patrol checkpoint in Falfurrias, said Democrat Martinez, “one of the busiest checkpoints in terms of concerns about undocumented crossers and drug seizures.”
Martinez, who has worked narcotics for DPS for nearly 20 years, said the corridor is a major human and drug trafficking route. To avoid being caught by border patrol agents, many illegal aliens, led by coyotes (human smugglers), cut through cattle fences and trespass on private property to get around checkpoints. If they don’t get caught, he said, they’ll be taken “usually to Houston” at a pre-arranged location to be transported north.
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In some cases, “local gang members living in the county and others seeking economic gain conduct human trafficking through ranchland by cutting locks and fences and causing untold private property damage,” he said. “The sad fact is that many do not survive the journey.”
The land is desolate, barren and desert-like during the summer months when temperatures reach 100 degrees. Many who travel on foot do not have proper shoes or clothing and do not have enough water or food. They die of dehydration, snake bites, injuries or natural factors, or are left behind by smugglers for being too slow, he told Center Square.
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In August 2021, Martinez testified before the Texas House Appropriations Committee on border security funding, stating that Brooks County had “140% increase in dead bodies, 130% increase in 911 calls, over 200% increase in rescues.”
Since then, those numbers have increased astronomically. In 2022, their deputies, who were responsible for covering 943 square miles, found 917 dead bodies, compared to 119 in 2021 and 34 in 2020, the sheriff’s office told The Center Square. So far this year, they’ve found 12.
He said it cost the county about $1 million to help recover and identify the bodies.
County operations are being affected on a daily basis, with ambulances turning around 4 to 5 hours from providing assistance to tax-paying residents to assisting calls in remote areas, he said, adding, “Our units are being left without emergency medical services. . This has put pressure on the local health system.
Last year, there were 150 EMS calls to illegal aliens and three deaths en route to hospitals, he said. The fires, caused by illegal immigration, have burned 336,208 acres, costing the county fire department $75,000 in fuel, equipment breakdowns and related costs, he said.
HALO-Flight, a nonprofit air ambulance service in South Texas, cost about $320,000 and reimbursed only $45,000, he said.
Falfurrias Checkpoint reported a 100% increase in firearms seizures from 2021 to 2022, he said, “400% increase in checkpoint vehicle patrols, 150% increase in cocaine seizures, 1,743% increase in meth seizures, 175% increase in applications for gang members, 67% increase in apprehensions of sex offenders. And a 220% increase in alien smuggling cases.
“A large number of these girls are being sexually assaulted” through local ranches, she said.
The Brooks County Sheriff’s Office, participating in Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border security operation, from March to October 2022, was involved in 322 smuggling pursuits and 204 bailouts, he said. They seized 181 stolen vehicles and at least 31 firearms, seized more than $500,000 in cash bound for Mexico, recorded $286,000 in private property damage and charged 179 people with engaging in organized criminal activity.
He said the US could stop the flow of fentanyl and its contraband if current laws were enforced. “Everything is in place” to secure the border. DEA, CBP and other agents should be allowed to do their jobs, he said. “Let them work. They know what they’re doing.”
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.