FALFURRIAS, Texas–Volunteer police officers and deputies from across South Texas have responded to the need for help in Brooks County, Texas. The deaths of many illegal immigrants have created a huge financial burden on this small county’s budget. The county is a choke point for the trafficking of illegal immigrants, narco-traffickers, and foreign gang members. Smugglers often leave women and the injured to die if they are unable to keep up with the group while traversing the rough, isolated terrain. The off-duty law enforcement officers are donating their personal time and even money to make sure “everyone goes home” at the end of their shifts.
On June 22, Breitbart Texas reported about the impact of the mass graves on the Brooks County government. The fallout from the cost of burial of over 120 illegal immigrants in the last year had caused the department to cut pay and health insurance from its deputies. This caused some officers to quit in search of greener pastures and left Brooks County with four patrol deputies to cover an area roughly the size of Rhode Island, about 1,000 square miles.
Because of this, law enforcement officers from across South Texas are now volunteering their off-duty time to fill the gap and make certain these deputies have backup when they are needed.
Breitbart Texas interviewed Donna Independent School District (ISD) police officer Andrew Barbosa who was in Falfurrias this week to transport a dangerous Guatemalan MS-13 gang member who was captured recently and is wanted for murder in Florida. Breitbart Texas’s Brandon Darby reported on the capture. Barbosa was assisted by another off-duty police officer who is serving Brooks County as a reserve deputy. By providing this transport on a volunteer basis, the county doesn’t have to give up its paid resources.
According to Barbosa, the volunteer program began after his boss learned about the budget crisis being caused by this humanitarian crisis. His boss, Donna ISD acting Police Chief Daniel Walden is an instructor for human trafficking classes in South Texas. During one of his training sessions he met an investigator from Brooks County.
Upon learning of the county’s problems and the risk to the lives of the county’s deputies who were working, often without backup or health coverage Walden began looking for a way to be of service. He devised a program whereby certified law enforcement officers from other departments could become deputized and volunteer to serve Brooks County. Walden saw photographs of the people who were dying in the fields of ranchers in this county and was “burdened” in his heart. He knew he had to do something to help.
Barbosa quoted Walden saying, “These are human beings. We don’t care if you’re an American citizen or not, you’re a mom, you’re a dad, you’re a kid. You’re somebody’s loved one.”
Walden began working with Brooks County Chief Deputy “Benny” Martinez to develop a plan where law enforcement officers from other organizations could volunteer their time to supplement Martinez paid compliment of four patrol deputies.
“The deputies had a three percent pay raise that was taken away from them, along with their health insurance,” Barbosa explained about the Brooks County deputies. “Half of them are on Obamacare now and they don’t like it. The other half simply do without.” The deputies are paid about $25,000 per year with no health insurance.
“They had absolutely no vests (body armor) when we showed up,” Barbosa continued. “Now they are all vested up as our organization, Texas Border Brotherhood, brought in these donations from various departments from Hidalgo, Donna and others. On top of that, we started recruiting [more volunteer officers].”
Barbosa explained his organization won’t take just any cop for this extra duty. He pointed to the example of Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino and other cops in Hidalgo County being charged with corruption. Breitbart Texas has reported extensively on the corruption in this region.
“Given the bad taste the valley police officers have left in Texas’ mouth,” Barbosa said, “with all the corruption, we’re not just bringing anybody up here who wants to come.” He explained the extensive background check that is run on their volunteers, well above and beyond the normal police applicant background check.”
The Texas Border Brotherhood now provides Brooks County with nearly 20 volunteer law enforcement officers and four more are awaiting being sworn in by the Sheriff. The volunteers get bonded and pay the bond fee out of their own pockets, Barbosa said.
“They come up here (approximately 75 miles) on their own dime to get sworn in,” he explained. The volunteers even donate money to the county for the gasoline used in the patrol units they drive because the county doesn’t have the money for fuel for the extra manpower.
“What our guys are doing up here is simply helping the County out,” he continued. “We’re mostly doing drug interdiction or even cash interdiction.” He pointed out the county gets to keep about 75 percent of the cash found by traffickers heading south.
“On top of that, it’s getting these guys home [safely],” Barbosa said emphatically. “That’s the main point. Yes, we want to come out here and stop bad guys and we want to help rescue the immigrants who might die in the ranch fields, and bring the crime rate down. All of this good stuff.”
“But, the way we see it, is if you have a badge on you,” he explained, “you’re family. It’s not fair that we’re at home, barbequing because we’re off work for the month (school district police). We have backup just a few seconds away but these guys here don’t have that luxury.”
He said that before their arrival, deputies were often at work at night by themselves with the nearest backup asleep in their beds as much as an hour away. Barbosa described the situation regarding the deaths of the illegal immigrants and why it is unique in Brooks County.
The County is already beginning to discover the rewards of having these highly trained volunteers. Barbosa described an event that happened not long ago. One of the new reserve deputies is training in cash interdiction, looking for the cash drug cartels are shipping south back to Mexico. He was working by himself one night and received a call about a suspicious vehicle in the roadside park south of Falfurrias. When he arrived and began to question the driver, he became alerted by the suspect’s answers and how his story began to fall apart. He requested permission to search the vehicle. It was granted by the suspect who thought he was clever about his hiding place. Mixed in with a lot of unrelated junk in the car was an old style television set. They back of the set had new, non-matching screws.
Upon opening the TV, he found over $450,000 in cash that is now going through the forfeiture process. These funds will certainly help this struggling county. The officer has also been sharing his interdiction training with other officers to help the county become more efficient in finding the southbound cash.
“What we are doing” Barbosa concluded, “is pushing forward. We are trying to save as many individuals as possible, try to recover as much money and dope as possible. The money for the department and the dope because our kids don’t need to be having access to that, and trying to get these boys [Brooks County Deputies] home. We want to get them home! If we’re up here, that means they have backup. It may be ten minutes away, but that is better than not coming at all if we weren’t here.”
Barbosa pointed out that the Texas Border Brotherhood is in the process of establishing its formal organizational status.
Bob Price is a staff writer and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.