By Charlotte Cuthbertson
BRACKETTVILLE, Texas—Texas State Troopers have started delivering van-loads of illegal aliens to the Kinney County Sheriff’s Office to be charged with criminal trespass.
The parking lot, and an old steel picnic table under a tree outside the sheriff’s office, have become a proxy booking center as the building is more suited for the crimes of a quiet, rural county of 3,600 residents.
But last week the area was bustling as troopers brought in and processed 17 illegal aliens on Aug. 3, another 17 on Aug. 6, and 13 more overnight on Aug. 8. All were males and all were magistrated by the Kinney County justice of the peace for criminal trespass after being arrested on local ranches.
On June 1, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued a disaster declaration and on June 10 he directed state troopers to start arresting illegal aliens on charges including trespass, criminal mischief and evading on foot. But the jails were full and it took almost two months to make space and for the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to work out the process.
It’s somewhat complicated for Kinney County as it only has 14 jail spaces that are perpetually full. So the aliens get booked and appear before a judge in Kinney County, then taken to a tent facility in neighboring Val Verde County. From Val Verde, troopers transport them 100 miles away to the Briscoe Unit in Dilley, Texas, which has been repurposed to detain almost 1,000 illegal aliens who are waiting for their court cases and serving out their sentences.
Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe said he wants to stick illegal immigrants with any charges he can, so that it might deter them from coming to his county, but he’s had to wait until the state was ready to help provide the infrastructure to do it.
“We’re going to try to hold these people accountable,” Coe said. He hopes the convictions might be a roadblock for illegal aliens if they ever try to file for some type of assistance or become a U.S. citizen.
“That’d be a check mark against them,” he said. “Some type of consequence has to be there.”
Kinney County Attorney Brent Smith is preparing to take up the slew of new trespass cases, with whatever he can’t handle to be picked up by the Texas Attorney General’s office.
“DPS has been working hard on conducting more ground operations on the ranches in Kinney County … where probably 80 percent of the illegal trafficking is occurring,” Smith said.
“They’re having some success in their arrests, but are very limited in the manpower they can deploy on the ground.”
Most of the troopers are deployed on the roadways, and while they’ve curbed the number of vehicle pursuits and smuggling events, it has pushed more foot traffic onto ranches.
Texans living near the U.S.–Mexico border are growing increasingly frustrated with the surge in illegal crossings, human smuggling, vehicle theft, property damage, and threats from illegal aliens trespassing on their property.
Most of the illegal aliens passing through Kinney County are adult males who have crossed the border in the Del Rio Border Patrol Sector—usually into the small cities of Del Rio or Eagle Pass.
In July, almost 10,000 illegal aliens evaded Border Patrol in the Del Rio Sector, according to preliminary Customs and Border Protection (CBP) numbers released by Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) on Aug. 2. Many of them pass through Kinney County on their way to larger cities.
“I’ve never seen it quite like this,” Coe told The Epoch Times.
He said in the past six months, illegal aliens that get past Border Patrol in the Del Rio, Texas, area are walking through ranches, destroying fences and water pipes, leaving water faucets on, and breaking into homes and vehicles.
“We’ve always had a fence cut here, fence cut there, because they’re hauling dope or small kids or something,” he said. “But we’ve never seen the intentional big four-by-four holes in the fence, or now, a 10-foot section just cut completely out. That’s really starting to bother me.”
The number of illegal aliens getting caught and charged is tiny compared to the number passing through, but county leadership says it has to do something.
The Cubans evading Border Patrol and coming through Kinney County are a new phenomenon, said Coe, who was a Border Patrol agent in the area for 31 years before becoming sheriff. He said he hasn’t seen a Cuban influx in the county for at least 35 years.
Until recently, the vast majority of Cubans crossing the border illegally have been turning themselves over to Border Patrol at the common crossing pathways into Del Rio and Eagle Pass.
Kinney County shares 16 miles of international border with Mexico and the land is owned by one rancher. State Troopers and local jail staff took about 2 hours to complete the paperwork and magistrate six Cubans who were arrested after crossing the Rio Grande onto that ranch late on Aug. 7.
The Cubans, all male, expressed surprise at being arrested on criminal charges—they had been told they’d simply be processed by Border Patrol and then cut loose into the United States to travel to their destination (five to Florida and one to Las Vegas).
All of the six had left Cuba at least 2 years ago and had been living in South America before traveling up to the U.S.–Mexico border.
Several talked about the difficult trek through the Darian jungle between Colombia and Panama.
One man said he saw 9 dead bodies in the six days he was walking—some who had been executed and others who had succumbed to the harsh conditions. Him and another man both said they had been robbed at gunpoint in the jungle.
The seven Mexicans had been walking for two days before being caught on a ranch.
Two said they had already tried crossing a month ago, but got caught by Border Patrol and expelled. Another man, who said he was aiming to get to New York, said this was his third time trying to get through. He said his cousin was going to pay the $4,000 smuggling fee upon his delivery to New York.
Several said they’ll probably try again, while others weren’t so enthusiastic. They all said a “travel agent” on the Mexican side of the border directed them where to cross, gave directions of where to walk, and was going to coordinate a vehicle pick-up for them.
After a misdemeanor arrest, Smith examines the evidence in the case file from the sheriff’s office. If it’s determined that trespass occurred, he’ll charge the individual with trespassing, which is a Class B misdemeanor. The charge is elevated if the individual has a deadly weapon or is found more than 100 feet past the property line on agricultural land.
Once charged, the suspect will make a plea, and if they plead guilty, they’ll most likely get time served and be turned over to Border Patrol.
It’s not a hefty penalty, but Coe and Smith say it gets illegal aliens into the system and gives them a record.
“We’re hoping they avoid our county,” Smith said.
“The only realistic solution to this crisis will require deploying all of the Texas military on the border and actually prevent the illegal entries from occurring. Right now, it’s like trying to build a dam after the flood gates have already been opened.”
During July, 205,000 illegal aliens were apprehended along the whole southern border, according to preliminary CBP numbers. It’s an increase over the previous months this year and a 20-year high.