ROCKPORT, Texas–Texas Governor Rick Perry’s decision to activate the Texas National Guard and deploy them along a relatively small sector of the Texas-Mexico border has brought criticism from one border county’s sheriff’s office and praise from another. While some leaders along the border appear to be concerned about a “militarization” of the border region, others see it as an opportunity to stop the senseless deaths that have been occurring South Texas.
At least one sheriff questioned the wisdom of Perry’s decision to send military people into the area who are not authorized to stop anyone, according to the Dallas Morning News article by Christy Hoppe. “I don’t know what good they can do,” Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio said of military personnel. “You just can’t come out here and be a police officer.”
In nearby Brooks County, a different perspective was offered. “We have a different view here in Brooks County,” Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Benny Martinez told Breitbart Texas in an interview on Tuesday. “In Brooks County, we have a lot of dead bodies.” Brooks County surrounds the city of Falfurrias, Texas.
His blunt comment refers to the 43 illegal immigrants who have already lost their lives in the ranches in his county. “Governor Perry and General Nichols used the term ‘Deter and Refer’ when talking about the role to be played by the Texas National Guard,” Martinez continued. “That works well for us.”
He explained that the deterrence effect of the National Guard in the border counties will slow down the number of people being dropped off to potentially die in his county. “I want to save lives on this end,” he explained. “The deployment will deter deaths in Brooks County.”
As to the “refer” portion of the National Guard’s mission, Martinez seemed quite receptive to having the force multiplier Gov. Perry spoke of in his press conference on Monday. “I don’t have anyone else and could use the help,” Martinez stated. Brooks County has had to cut the budget in their county to the point that he now only has one paid patrol deputy per shift. The budget cuts were necessitated by the expense of burying the bodies of illegal immigrants who died on the ranchers’ fields in Brooks County near Falfurrias, Texas.
Martinez has been searching for help from his county for several years. “I am still not getting any help in Brooks County,” he said. The help he has received has come in the form of police officers, mostly from Hidalgo County to the south of Brooks County, who volunteer their off-duty to come work for Brooks County for free as Martinez’ own “force multiplier.” The exception being, his multipliers are fully certified police officers who work with the full authority of the County Sheriff’s Office.
As to the complaints by Border Sheriff’s about Gov. Perry’s failure to consult with the sheriffs, Martinez seemed to be in full agreement. He said, “I have not seen any consulting of the local sheriffs by Gov. Perry.” Martinez agrees with the calls from both Republicans and Democrats for a special session of the Legislature. “It would be helpful for the Legislature to hold hearings and get expert witness testimony about the reality of our problems,” Martinez explained. “I would support the Governor calling a special session.”
He explained the special session would allow for a more complete examination of the scope of the entire problem and that it would allow the experts on the ground, the local sheriffs, to present both their input and their county’s specific needs. Martinez tried to place himself outside of the political exchange going on between Sheriff Lucio and Governor Perry. “Most of South Texas is blue, so here comes the political rhetoric,” Martinez said sadly. “I have a lot of dead bodies in my county. This is not a red or blue issue, it is a matter of human lives.”
“If the ‘Deter and Refer’ program of the Texas National Guard will save one person from dying in Brooks County, I am for it,” Martinez concluded.
Brooks County is not considered a border county. However, it has a very busy Border Patrol Checkpoint located right in the middle of the county. Human smugglers and traffickers drop off the illegal immigrants–who have made their way past the porous Texas-Mexico border–on the south side of the checkpoint area and send them on a three to four day march through deep sand with high temperatures. Those who make it are picked up by the smugglers north of the checkpoint area.
So far this year, 43 bodies have been found of those who did not make it. Those are just the bodies that have been found. Martinez estimates they find about one in 10 bodies.
Bob Price is a staff writer and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX.