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Lawmakers Discuss Impact Of Immigrant Surge On Government & Local Agencies

Ryan E. Poppe
TPR News
Texas House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee gets updates from state agencies on the effects of an immigrant surge along the Texas-Mexico border.

The Texas House Homeland Security & Public Safety Committee lined up several state agencies and city leaders from the Rio Grande Valley to detail how the thousands of Central American children coming to Texas is affecting various functions of state and local government.  

The Department of Public Safety’s Steve McCraw said there is a lack of security related to the large number of border patrol agents who are having to spend more time processing unaccompanied children. 

McCraw said having more state troopers along the border deters cartels entering the country with drugs and people. 

State leaders signed off on $1 million-a-week effort that saturates areas of the border with DPS troopers. McCraw said right now the Rio Grande Valley is the epicenter for drug smuggling in Texas. 

The other concern for state agencies is disease control and outbreaks inside detention centers and beyond to the general public. 

Dr. David Lakey, the commissioner for the Department of State Health Services, said many facilities holding unaccompanied minors are packed with just inches to spare between the children.

“My concern in that cramped condition is if someone came in with norovirus, what you see on a cruise line, you could have a lot of individuals get sick very quickly, or respiratory illness, the spread of respiratory illness," Lakey said. "What they’re seeing mostly has been lice, scabies, things that are already here but a lot of the kids have.”

Beyond state agencies, lawmakers also heard how local communities and their city’s resources have been affected by the leap in people coming into United States through Texas.

Jim Darling, mayor of the city of McAllen, said their transnational bus station is packed day and night with people the U.S. Border Patrol have dropped off.

“We take them, depending how long they're going to be there, over to Sacred Heart Church. They get a shower, which they haven’t had, from that they get a hot meal," Darling said. "We then know they don’t have any money usually to go on their trips so we give them clothes, some diapers, some Pedialyte and some water and some food to last them three days so they can get up to many of your cities in the state of Texas and beyond.”

Darling said the city has already spent $75,000 and estimated by the end of the year they will spend half of a million. Local charities predict they will also spend an additional $1.5 million in providing humanitarian aid. Darling said he is wondering how they, as a city, will continue to fund this need. 

The U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security is also hosting a meeting in McAllen this Thursday to discuss issues affecting the sudden increase of unaccompanied minors across the border.  

Ryan started his radio career in 2002 working for Austin’s News Radio KLBJ-AM as a show producer for the station's organic gardening shows. This slowly evolved into a role as the morning show producer and later as the group’s executive producer.