As President Joe Biden’s open border crisis continues with 2.1 million illegal border-crossers, Kinney County officials—County Attorney Brent Smith and County Sheriff Brad Coe—highlight the harsh realities of living on the unsecured southern border.
While speaking at Uncensored: The Border Education Summit in Austin, Smith began by stating, “Unfortunately, I took office the same day Joe Biden did” and “it has been a roller coaster, to say the least.”
“The Biden administration says it’s a humanitarian event that’s going on. ‘We’re trying to help these people.’ This is not humanitarian,” said Coe. “This is not humane.”
Kinney County, with a population of just over 3,000 people, is 1,400 square miles and situated directly between two legal ports of entry in Del Rio (Val Verde County) and Eagle Pass (Maverick County). Smith said, “So, all we have [in Kinney County] is smuggling, human trafficking, and crime.”
“From May to August, I have confirmed 15,983 illegal aliens walking through Kinney County,” said Coe.
Longtime county residents are now moving out of Kinney County, away from the land their families have owned and worked for generations. “These are Texans being forced off their own property, without due process of law,” said Smith. “We should not allow that to occur in Texas or anywhere, as far as I’m concerned.”
“We don’t have oil and gas,” added Coe. “We don’t have any industry. All we have is our ranch lands and our kids. That’s it. … If we lose the ranchers, we lose our hunters, we lose our county. There’s nothing in Kinney County after that.”
However, safety is a driving concern for many families as illegal border-crossers overwhelm local resources and smugglers careen through town.
“A few months ago, we had a county resident driving down Highway 90, which is one of the main smuggling routes. As she was driving, her vehicle [was] hit by multiple rounds of gunfire coming in from oncoming traffic, from a cartel operative attempting to smuggle humans into the state,” said Smith. “This is not acceptable.”
“This is something you would see in a third-world country,” he added.
The county attorney’s office started in 2021 with only Smith and a secretary. Now, it includes two prosecuting assistants and several legal assistants as part of Operation Lone Star—Texas’ border security push. Smith’s office has now prosecuted more than 6,000 felony and misdemeanor charges in the past year.
Meanwhile, Coe confirmed that Kinney County “apprehended 730 smuggled laborers [and] 246 smugglers” in a four-month period from May to August. “We’re just overwhelmed. We can’t stop all the cars.”
Additionally, the families moving out of Kinney County are leaving vast tracts of land unpatrolled, and Coe says they can’t keep up with the land exchanges. “We don’t know who’s buying it. Is it the cartels? Is it the Chinese? Is it the people from California?”
Despite the praises from Smith and Coe that Operation Lone Star has offered the county needed assistance, Smith says “the strategy that Texas has in dealing with this is purely defensive.”
We’re reacting to everything. We’re doing everything we can to keep our head above the water. That has to change. We have got to start going on an offensive instead. We have got to start preventing crossings from occurring. The amount of money we’re spending is not securing the border; it’s basically trying to keep Texas alive. It’s not making it any better. It’s gotten worse. The 7,000 prosecutions can prove that.
Smith is calling for Gov. Greg Abbott to declare an invasion of the southern border, work with other states to create an interstate compact, and get “every single tool on the table.”
“We’re going to wait two and a half years and hope we get a president that secures the border?” Smith asked. “Every day, 300 people die of fentanyl. So, are they okay with that many thousands of people dying that can be prevented? How many people are politicians okay with dying before Texas does something? That’s what it comes down to.”
“Is our border secure?” Coe asked. “It is far from it. I’ve been dealing with border issues since 1985 and this is the worst I’ve ever seen in my life, and it’s not getting any better.”
To Texas lawmakers, Smith said, “This is probably the most important [legislative] session that y’all are going to have in your entire life. Texas, I think, will fall or rise determinably on what y’all do this session. Everything’s at stake.”
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