Border crisis prompts Atascosa County to declare local disaster, urge state support

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Atascosa County Judge Robert Hurley issued a local disaster declaration April 21, citing that human trafficking on the border has resulted in an imminent threat of disaster. Due to the ongoing border crisis, according to the declaration, county residents are “being assaulted, threatened with violence, and robbed, while also sustaining vast amounts of property damage,” the declaration states.

This follows a similar declaration in Kinney County; other counties in South and South Central Texas have followed suit, or are considering such action. Many border community resources are being strained by the increase in human trafficking and surge in numbers of migrants at the border with Mexico.

The declaration requests Gov. Greg Abbott to provide aid, such as state military forces, to assist in law enforcement and protect the county.

The Kinney County declaration is a cry for help, County Judge Tully Shahan told news sources. Border communities are being driven by a concern for public safety and health, as trafficking spurs high-speed pursuits and accidents.

The migrants also put Texas residents at risk of infection from “unknown variants of COVID-19, or other infectious diseases,” the declarations state.

“We have had no influx here,” Wilson County Judge Richard L. “Dickie” Jackson said, asked if the county is considering any similar action. “… When it does affect Wilson County, we’ll take the action we need to take.” This could include a disaster declaration, he added.

Concerned about the huge increase in migrants at the southern border, U.S. Sens. John Cornyn (R-TX) and Kyrsten Sinema (DAZ), along with U.S. Reps. Henry Cuellar (D-TX 28) and Tony Gonzales (D-TX 23) introduced The Bipartisan Border Solutions Act April 22, to respond to the surge in migrants coming across the U.S. southern border.

The bill is designed to:

•Improve the capacity of the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice to manage migration influxes and adjudicate asylum claims in a timely manner

•Protect unaccompanied minor children

•Reduce impact on local communities

•Ensure migrants are treated fairly and humanely

•Deter those who do not have realistic asylum claims from putting themselves in danger by making the treacherous journey to the U.S./Mexico border.

“The current influx of migrants has stretched our law-enforcement agents and border communities to a breaking point,” said Rep. Gonzales.

Although Wilson County hasn’t seen the impact of communities to the south, Jackson is prepared to take necessary steps if the situation changes.

But one thing he is adamant about.

“I don’t agree with how the immigration situation is being handled by the federal government,” Jackson said.

Abbott: Border costs are crippling Texas

“Securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, but the current crisis has placed a costly burden on the State of Texas and on our local governments,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said April 26. “I have heard from many counties about the challenges they are facing from the surge in illegal border crossings. Several counties have declared local disasters. Other counties have been working around the clock in response to the federal government opening migrant facilities in their counties. I strongly believe that your county, our state, and our fellow Texans should not be forced to shoulder these costs, and that the federal government should reimburse us in full.”

Abbott noted that the efforts of county judges can be bolstered if their commissioner courts adopt a resolution supporting the State of Texas’ request for federal reimbursement.

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