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DEL RIO, Texas (AP) - Sheriffs from 10 border counties shared common concerns Wednesday about the potential for terrorists to cross the Texas-Mexico border because they don't have enough money to beef up patrols and share intelligence.

The Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition, a newly formed body of the 16 counties on or near the Texas-Mexico border, believes its communities are among the nation's most vulnerable to terrorist intrusion.

Among their chief concerns is the growing number of non-Mexicans attempting to cross into the United States who hail from nations where al-Qaida and other known terrorist groups are known to exist.

"We're the first line of defense for the country," said Terrell County Sheriff Clint McDonald, whose border with Mexico is 53 miles long. "We'd rather stop it with us than it end up in Dallas."

The number of non-Mexicans entering Texas illegally has reached 96,000 so far this year versus 34,500 during the same time last year, according to the U.S. Border Patrol. Many of the sheriffs are concerned because they say the detainees are given a "notice to appear" in court that they typically ignore on their way to urban centers.

The coalition, which was formed in May, conducted Wednesday's meeting mostly behind closed doors because the sheriffs were discussing sensitive intelligence issues, said Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez, coalition president.

Gonzalez said sheriffs believe Mexican violence has infiltrated Texas through "sleeper cells" entering the U.S. along porous areas of the border. Several of the sheriffs said fighting the battle has exhausted county budgets of fuel and manpower. They don't believe federal agencies on the border are sharing intelligence that could help them.

Many said that radio communications among local and U.S. law enforcement agencies were often interrupted when responding to incidents of illegal immigration.

The state office of Homeland Security announced plans last week to send $5 million by the end of the year to border counties and cities. The money will go toward upgrading radio communications among emergency agencies.

Coalition members said the funding was inadequate and the plan favored larger cities over rural areas.

They also said they believe they can get the job done more efficiently than federal agencies.

"I hate to harp on government money but the fact is if you give these local sheriffs some of this money, we'll clean it up," said Sheriff Ronny Dodson of Brewster County, the state's largest county with 6,193 square miles.

Robert Black, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry, said border security is a federal and not a state matter and stressed that Perry is pushing for more federal money to be sent to Texas.

A total of $264 million in Homeland Security funds has gone through the governor's office from 2002 to 2004, including $39 million for the 14 counties along the Mexican border, Black said.

At the Del Rio meeting, sheriffs said they favor initiatives like the 2004 federal program called "Operation Stonegarden."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security program gave money to counties and cities along the border so they could pay for overtime to increase their police presence at suspected crossing points.

The coalition is seeking permanent funding from Homeland Security or other federal and state aid to patrol the state's 1,200-mile Mexican border.

Dozens of elected officials have been invited to Thursday's meeting to discuss ways to receive government funding.

While no one from the U.S. Border Patrol attended Wednesday, spokesman Salvador Zamora said such coalitions are welcomed because they result in increased cooperation and efficiency among police agencies fighting illegal immigration.

He also cited the federal Expedited Removal Program, which he said is helping curtail the boom in non-Mexican immigrants crossing illegally. The program, which civil rights groups oppose, was recently expanded to the border patrol's Rio Grande Valley sector and allows immigration agents to deport certain illegal immigrants without them seeing a judge.