Human smuggling pursuits and the apprehension of migrants are now daily episodes for a Texas sheriff’s office located 200 miles from the Mexican border. Refugio County Sheriff Raul “Pinky” Gonzales says the trend shifted from a couple of times per month to a daily grind for his deputies since January.
“We’ve always had dealings with [human smugglers and migrants], that is nothing new,” Sheriff Gonzales said in an exclusive interview with Breitbart Texas. “It changed in late January and early February. Then, in June and July, we started seeing a drastic increase.”
Gonzales is the sheriff of Refugio County, Texas, which is located along a major human smuggling corridor approximately 200 miles from the state’s border with Mexico.
“Now, it’s just like an everyday encounter,” the sheriff continued. “Every day, we deal with either apprehensions or chases from these smugglers and their smuggled migrants.”
Gonzales employs about 12 deputies and frequently those deputies are prevented from doing their local jobs.
“It’s not just my officers,” Gonzales continued. “When we engage in a pursuit, we’ll have other officers from local and state law enforcement agencies respond to assist. Those include local police departments, DPS troopers, and even Border Patrol agents.”
“We’re overwhelmed with them,” he said. “And we’ve got other duties too. We have all kinds of incidents to respond to including robberies, car accidents, and the usual calls for service police agencies deal with. “We’re just using up a lot of man-hours on the human smuggling issue.”
Gonzales said some of these human smuggling incidents tie up four officers for up to 12 hours as they process and sometimes transport the apprehended migrants to Border Patrol facilities in Corpus Christi.
The sheriff said he is also seeing a difference in the types of crimes being committed and migrants moving through the area. He said that frequently, the migrants or human smugglers are armed with weapons stolen from ranch homes in South Texas.
Taking action against the migrants is difficult for Sheriff Gonzales, as it is for other sheriffs who spoke with Breitbart.
“We just don’t have the space for them in our jail,” Gonzales said. “We only have 60 beds in my jail and sometimes those beds are full with other criminals besides the illegal immigrants.”
“And now, with COVID going on, there are a lot of other jails that aren’t accepting anyone,” he added. “Just like me, I am not accepting prisoners from any other jail — unless they are desperate and need a place a person in my jail.”
Recently, Gonzales’s dispatchers received 911 calls from concerned citizens who heard cries for help coming from the back of a U-Haul truck, Breitbart Texas’s Randy Clark reported.
Deputies responded and found 34 migrants locked inside suffering from the sweltering heat.
“I’m certain some of them would have gotten very ill or died if we hadn’t stopped them,” the sheriff recalled.
Gonzales said the cost to the 1,000 residents of Refugio County is very high. Like many local governments, the county is strapped for funds and is trying to make cuts.
When asked by county commissioners what he could cut, Gonzales responded, “On the contrary, I need more officers. I need more money.”
“We saw the surge begin when Biden said he was going to leave the gaps in the border wall open,” the sheriff said. “We just feel like they are not backing us on this. They don’t care about the consequences we face.”
“Like I said, we have always had this problem but we knew, as law enforcement officers, that the government had our backs,” Sheriff Gonzales concluded. “We don’t feel that way anymore.”
The frustrations faced by Sheriff Gonzales are echoed by other sheriffs across Texas who are forced to deal with the crisis.
Over the weekend, Breitbart Texas reported about the Hutchinson County Sheriff’s Office being forced to release two groups of migrants apprehended in the county located near the top of the Texas Panhandle — 480 miles from the Mexican border.
“Although we attempted avenues to obtain assistance from the federal government, they were unwilling to provide any help, and we were left to handle the situation with no resources or placement for the trafficked individuals,” a deputy said in an official statement.
Hutchinson County Sheriff Blaik Kemp and his deputies were left with no choice but to release the migrants and send them on their way.