Sheriffs Feel 'Left Out' Of Almost $1 Billion Border Security Operation
In 2015, Texas lawmakers approved a historic spending package aimed at beefing up law enforcement’s presence along the Texas-Mexico border. Part of the money was supposed to help local border sheriffs hire additional deputies so they could be involved, but so far that isn’t happening.
Members of the House and Senate Joint Border Security Committee went over with the head of DPS how the $800 million lawmakers passed in 2015 was being spent and what return the state was receiving on its investment.
Part of the money lawmakers set aside for the state’s border security plan included funds to help county sheriffs working along the Texas-Mexico border, but Eagle Pass Democratic Rep. Pancho Nevarez says this border security grant program is not for things the sheriffs really need.
“What these border sheriffs are calling for is a little more assistance in being able to hire more personnel or anything that gives them more flexibility in the grant program in how the grants are distributed from the governor’s office so they can meet those demands," Navarez says.
The co-chair of the committee, Granbury Republican Sen. Brian Birdwell has concerns that providing county sheriffs access to state money will create a type of economic dependency that the state cannot afford.
“I think we are very wise to make sure that if the state is going to direct a function here that those aren’t to be state employees. I’d rather see a mutual agreement so that we don’t create a circumstance where future budget years we have to keep supplying state dollars to a county entity," Birdwell says.
Navarez countered that argument by saying the state is creating the same type of economic dependency for the DPS. He added the DPS hasn’t come close to spending the $800 million provided lawmakers and the legislature could simply reallocate a portion of those funds.
Jackson County Sheriff Andy Louderback is the legislative director for the Sheriffs' Association of Texas and says his members just want to be involved in the state’s border security operation
“That’s a seat at the table, we don’t have that seat currently, it’s being discussed, but that’s the thing that Texas Sheriffs are interested in. We want to offer our suggestions, we want to be a partner with state government and federal government in order to secure this state," Louderback says.
Louderback said local law enforcement can help DPS Troopers in the field identify which cartel groups are operating along the border and where and how to quickly access those areas.