The flood of illegal immigrants crossing the border in the Rio Grande Valley are making their way northward to Texas’ poorest county – overwhelming the county’s law enforcement resources. Even with additional resources from the State of Texas and U.S. Border Patrol, the remains of at least 54 illegal immigrants who died while being smuggled around the Border Patrol checkpoint have been found in 2016.
“Every one of these sets of remains must be collected and investigated,” Brooks County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Benny Martinez told Breitbart Texas in a Monday morning interview. “We have very limited resources and when bodies, or partial remains, are found we have to send out a deputy to process the scene and collect the remains. Often, that deputy is the only county law enforcement officer on duty.”
The chief explained that questions have come up as to how long the discovered remains have been in the fields. “We don’t have any way of determining that at this time,” he said. “At our most recent body recovery, it was obvious that coyotes had ripped the body apart and scattered the remains. We often times just find a skull or a large bone or rib cage. It is very difficult to determine how long the bodies have been in the field when you are looking at sun-bleached bones.”
Texas law enforcement officials are looking into trying to determine how long specific remains have been in the fields. “From our perspective, it doesn’t matter,” Martinez stated. “When a body, or parts of a body, are found, we have to respond whether it has been there one day or ten years.”
Brooks County, located about 80 miles north of the Texas-Mexico border, is nearly the size of the state of Rhode Island but can only afford a handful of deputies to patrol county’s vast territory. Throw in a U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint in the middle of the county and you have conditions ripe for human smuggling and drug trafficking by smugglers often connected to Mexican drug cartels.
“The numbers of immigrants and deaths has been overwhelming,” Martinez expressed. “But thanks to help from the state, the county is meeting the challenge of identifying and burying the bodies, for now.” Following intense media coverage during the 2014 flood of illegal immigrants that reported Brooks County was exhausting its financial resources investigating and burying the bodies of the illegal immigrants who died in the county, the State of Texas dedicated additional financial and manpower resources to assist the county. Breitbart Texas has reported extensively on the massive humanitarian problem faced by Brooks County.
“Governor Abbott and Lt. Governor Patrick have done a great job of helping us defray the cost of identifying the remains and burying the dead,” Martinez said. “The additional funds and manpower provided by the state have been a big help.”
“We have also been receiving law enforcement grants for specific equipment,” Martinez, who will become sheriff of Brooks County in January, continued. “Unfortunately, we cannot put on additional deputies with grant money. Those funds are tied directly to specific equipment purchases.”
Martinez has been resourceful in putting more boots on the ground in the expansive county. “We have been fortunate that we have a group of dedicated peace officers from outside the county who volunteer their time to drive to Brooks County and help patrol our roadways.”
Martinez is referring to the Border Brotherhood of Texas, a group of certified law enforcement officers who have volunteered to drive to the county and provide some of the much needed manpower resources the sheriff’s office needs. The group, founded by Donna Independent School District Police Senior Sergeant Daniel Walden, schedules the officers to provide additional deputies who can respond to calls for service and help save the lives of immigrants who become lost in the ranches.
“When I learned that these deputies were often patrolling these highways with no backup, I had to take action,” Walden explained. “The plight of the immigrants dying in the fields and the thought of Brook County’s deputies being alone on the roadways motivated all of us to help out.”
“Additional manpower is critical to our being able to protect our citizens and help prevent the loss of life of the smuggled immigrants who are overwhelming our county,” Martinez stated. “The grants are great, but we can’t hire deputies with the restrictions placed upon us. We need to be able to hire more deputies.”
Both the U.S. Border Patrol and Texas Department of Public Safety have increased their presence in the county since 2014, Martinez explained. “When our deputies are tied up with recovering the bodies or helping search for immigrants reported to be in distress or missing, we have no one available to handle our county’s law enforcement needs,” he concluded.