The increasing costs of rescuing illegal immigrants in Brooks County, south of Corpus Christi, and the costs of picking up the bodies of the immigrants who don’t make it, is coming close to bankrupting the small county, 1200 WOAI news reports.
Brooks County has been at Ground Zero of the immigration wars for decades. Because of the existence of the Border Patrol checkpoint on Highway 281 in Falfurrias, many immigrant smugglers haul their human cargo as far north as just south of the checkpoint and then kick them out into the unforgiving Brush Country, telling them in many cases that Houston and San Antonio are ‘just a few hours walk’ away. Many of the immigrants don’t have food and water, and they get lost in the featureless terrain or die of heat stroke in temperatures that can reach 110 degrees.
Despite the fact that the federal government consistently goes to court to assert its right to manage immigration affairs, shooting down efforts by border states to involve themselves in immigration issues, Washington DC provides no money to Brooks County, population 7100, to deal with the job of rounding up immigrants in distress and, more frequently, collecting the bodies of the dead.
The Brooks County Sheriff’s Department this week is dropping health insurance coverage for its deputies. The Deputies have repeatedly taken pay cuts to deal with the county’s financial problems, which are entirely caused by immigration. Currently, a deputy makes little more than minimum wage, and, with the booming Eagle Ford Shale less than 100 miles away, Brooks County rancher Mike Vickers says the reduction in the size of the law enforcement force are placing his family and other ranchers in danger.
“Assaults every day and every night, and we have hardly a sheriff’s department to be able to protect us,” he said.
In fact, Brooks County, which is twice the size of Manhattan Island, now has just four deputies to provide protection 24/7, as well as deal with the time consuming job of collecting the remains of immigrants who die in the county’s endless scrub fields.
“If the Sheriff’s Department can’t respond, then we’re pretty much going to have to take care of the situation ourselves,” Vickers said. “It is very concerning.”
129 undocumented immigrants were found dead just in Brooks County in 2012, which is more then triple the number who were found dead in the county just six years ago. And officials expect the carnage to continue. They say any time there is talk of ‘immigration reform’ or ‘amnesty’ in Washington, they see an uptick in illegal immigrants risking their lives to get into the U.S. Today, officials say, as many or more of the immigrants found dead in Brooks County are from Central America rather than Mexico.
How responsive are immigrant smugglers to the immigration debate? Vickers says in 2012, when President Obama announced his program to allow the children of illegal immigrants to remain in the U.S., he saw an increase in children and teenagers trying to sneak into the country almost immediately.
“If you have one deputy maybe on one eight hour shift to cover maybe 1,000 square miles, there’s not much support there,” Vickers said.