Posted March 27, 2013 at 9:47 p.m.
By Matthew Waller
Abilene Reporter-News

Authorities seek financial help

AUSTIN — After taking recent trips near the border, the head of the Texas Senate said he knows firsthand the scope of undocumented immigration.

“I was down in Brooks County twice in the last six months, and I could see the fresh footprints myself when I went out in the mornings on the different trails that were being heavily used,” said Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst after a meeting Wednesday afternoon with sheriffs and county judges from South Texas.

The officials are seeking state help to handle the increase in bodies of immigrants who die in the area. Dewhurst said the state might try to find grants that could help, but the problem primarily is a federal issue, he said.

“The federal government is doing a horrible job, an absolutely horrible job,” Dewhurst said. “What is happening is that the number of bodies being found of illegals traveling north are so large that it’s taxing the resources of each county sheriff’s department because it’s technically a crime scene,” Dewhurst said. “They have to go out, spend six or seven hours searching the area looking for other bodies, doing the investigation.

“In most cases they do an autopsy; It’s costing them in the case of Starr County over a quarter of a million dollars a year, and Starr County’s population is 61,000. So it’s costing a lot of money and using up their public safety resources.”

President Barack Obama said in his February State of the Union address that he has put “more boots on the southern border than at any time in our history, and reducing illegal crossings to their lowest levels in 40 years,” according to a White House transcript.

Dewhurst said the border isn’t secure enough.

“What I saw last year was otherwise; What I heard today shows that nothing has improved,” he said.

County officials thought they had conveyed their message well in meeting with Dewhurst.

“We’re trying to promote assistance for illegals that die in the brush,” Brooks County Sheriff Rey Rodriguez said. “We had 129 last year.”

Brooks County Judge Raul Ramirez said costs add up, including $740 per body bag and $1,500 to $2,500 for an autopsy. He said his county is 944 square miles with two deputies on duty.

Other counties represented by officials at the meeting that included Texas Department of Public Safety staff were Kenedy, Brooks and Duval counties.

The Brooks County officials affirmed that 300 undocumented immigrants go through the county per day, by their own counts.

Duval County Judge Abel Aragon said he thought the meeting served as a chance to raise awareness at a state level.

Dewhurst said doubling or tripling the size of the Border Patrol would solve the problem. Meanwhile, Homeland Security grants to Texas have been cut back from $60 million to $15 million, he said.

Dewhurst meets with South Texas officials to discuss undocumented immigration » Abilene Reporter-News