UVALDE, Texas – The local governments of Kinney County, Uvalde County, and the City of Uvalde joined to form a commission to help residents negatively impacted by the ongoing border crisis. The local coalition is authorized under Section 391 of the Texas Local Government Code. At the first meeting, commission members demanded action and answers of representatives from the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).
Assistant Chief Tony Pena and District Coordinator Fernando Perez with TDEM sat quietly as members of the newly formed 391 Border Coalition voiced frustration with issues caused by the influx of migrants into Kinney and Uvalde Counties. The members asked the TDEM to work toward better communication with local governments and provide more support as they deal with the influx.
Henry Garcia, Kinney County EMS Coordinator, says the influx robbed residents of emergency services on some occasions. Garcia says in a normal year during hunting seasons, his department usually treats three rattlesnake victims. This year, 14 migrants were treated for bites, sometimes requiring transfer to San Antonio for critical care.
Garcia says his EMS technicians are providing emergency care to 9 of every 15 migrants arrested in his county. “We aren’t transporting that many, most are treated on the scene for respiratory issues and dehydration, but we still have to respond,” he said.
Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe told the TDEM his department needed more personnel and equipment. Coe is asking from more Texas State Highway Patrolmen and funding to replace antiquated radio systems.
Coe says his county is prosecuting hundreds of migrants per month for criminal trespass and believes the area needs boosted detention facilities. He says area ranchers are sustaining continuous damages to fences which negatively impacts cattle companies.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin told the TDEM the region needs refrigerated facilities to hold deceased migrants. “I can’t send local decedents from our community to San Antonio because our facilities are full–that is unacceptable,” McLaughlin said.
McLaughlin told the TDEM his community dispatched all six available ambulances on one occasion to treat migrants in need of care at the local rail yard. That left residents with impaired emergency response capabilities for most of the day. McLaughlin says local schools have been locked down 48 times this year due to high-speed pursuits and migrants fleeing law enforcement in his city.
McLaughlin said local law enforcement is dealing with armed smugglers and migrants with convictions including murder and sex offenses. “When the Haitian crisis was going on, the border leading to our city was wide open, there appears to be no end in sight, we need help and answers,” he explained.
Kinney County Attorney Brent Smith told the TDEM they are doing all Governor Greg Abbott has asked of local authorities. “We have prosecuted 800 criminal cases in one month when our average is 10 during normal times,” he said. “We’re doing it, but it is hurting us at the same time.”
Kinney County Judge Tully Shahan says the commission is worried about the “Human Tsunami” that is probably on its way.
TDEM Assistant Chief Pena explained to the commission he shares their concerns and that other areas within the state are experiencing similar difficulties. Pena promised the commission he would seek answers and pursue solutions expeditiously.
Randy Clark is a 32-year veteran of the United States Border Patrol. Prior to his retirement, he served as the Division Chief for Law Enforcement Operations, directing operations for nine Border Patrol Stations within the Del Rio, Texas, Sector. Follow him on Twitter @RandyClarkBBTX.