(Central Square) – Kinney County, Texas, Sheriff Brad Coe is pleading for help from his tri-state counterparts as his department is overwhelmed by an influx of foreign nationals illegally crossing the border who are “wreaking havoc in our communities.”
Coe sent letters to sheriffs in all 254 counties in Texas, all 75 counties in Arkansas, and all 77 counties in Oklahoma, asking them to help protect its residents from a surge in illegal immigration.
The border crisis has “turned all counties into frontier counties,” he argues, and “it’s imperative that we’re ready here on the frontier to protect and serve.”
Kinney County was the first to declare a natural disaster in Texas on April 21, 2021. He was also the first to announce the invasion on 5 July 2022. One of the smallest rural counties in Texas, its total boundary is 16 miles. with Mexico.
Because mostly single young men of draft age enter Texas illegally through ports of entry and deliberately evade law enforcement, he says, they commit a range of crimes, including participating in skirmishes with law enforcement agencies. DPS troops and Goliad and Galveston county sheriffs have provided assistance, he said, but the number of people arriving mostly from Central American countries is too high for them to delay.
Even with the help of law enforcement officers, “they are at the limit of their ability to successfully conduct operations. So we are expanding our request and reaching out to the people of Texas and beyond for help,” he wrote to fellow sheriffs.
Consisting of just two traffic lights, Coe County is “consisting of 3,129 souls” who rely heavily on pastoralism and hunting to support themselves. Coe, one of the sheriffs most familiar with the Texas-Mexico border, is a retired Border Patrol agent. He said he knew where people were coming and how to stop them. And he’s never seen the volume he has now, he told The Center Square.
Coe asks other sheriffs to provide manpower, equipment, and operational assistance. The county also needs help with the judiciary and prosecution, District Attorney Brent Smith told The Center Square. According to Smith, although they have received something from the state, it is not enough. He added that all funding for the state operation “Lone Star” has already been allocated.
“Our houses are broken into in the middle of the night,” Coe wrote to his colleagues. “The local school district was forced to erect military barricades around campus to protect students from smugglers evading law enforcement. It is no longer safe to go outside after dark. Residents of Kinney County can no longer enjoy the comfort and security of their own home. Words cannot adequately describe the conditions on the ground and the daily threats that we are forced to contend with.”
“Under normal circumstances, our county would not support a large or strong law enforcement presence,” he continued. “However, these are extraordinary times.”
Despite being captured, outnumbered and depleted, he remains hopeful, saying that “our constitution, our citizens and our governor are empowered to build coalitions of workers and task forces to uphold the law and bring peace to our state.”
He also cites the governor’s permission to form coalitions to “combine their resources and coordinate their activities to successfully protect their residents.”
Texas has borne the brunt of border-related illegal activity as about 1.8 million people were detained or evaded capture by border agents in fiscal year 2022, according to figures obtained by The Center Square.
While private military contractors have previously offered support, their costs are prohibitive, exceeding the entire county’s budget, Kinney County Sheriff’s spokesman Matt Benacci told The Center Square, with initial costs in the million-dollar range.
According to him, the funding received from the state must be approved by the state, and these funds have already been allocated or spent, including for prosecutorial and judicial support and the hiring of additional law enforcement officers, the purchase of equipment and other resources.
Smith, whose office was the first to successfully prosecute criminal violators under Operation Lone Star, The Center Square told The Center Square that his office helps solve many cases that are usually handled only by larger counties. He was assisted by only one secretary, and last February his office was investigating from 10 cases a month to 500. Those numbers have only grown, he says.
Since August 2021, Kinney County officers have made more than 5,000 misdemeanor and evasion arrests, far exceeding the number of arrests made in all Texas border counties.
There were 3,045 smuggler arrests in Kinney County in fiscal year 2022, according to figures obtained by The Center Square from the District Attorney’s Office. By comparison, there were 67 in FY 2021 and 64 in FY 2020.
From January 2021 to January 2023, 5,524 people were arrested and charged, according to the district attorney’s office. There would have been more arrests if more law enforcement officers were on the ground, Smith said.
On Friday, Border Patrol agents found a group of lone men who had stolen an all-terrain vehicle, a rifle, several hundred rounds of ammunition and knives from a resident’s home, Smith said. This is after the others broke into the other house. According to him, such thefts occur weekly.
“If homeowners call DPS, there is no one to answer,” he told The Center Square. “If they call the border guard, no one will answer. If they call the sheriff’s office, there won’t be any crew there to answer. We are literally on our own. We will accept any help from any law enforcement agency that wants to help us.
“Maybe bullets and guns aren’t used every day, but we’re dealing with a war zone.”
Sheriffs interested in helping out are encouraged to call Coe’s office.