I don’t know if I should laugh or cry when I hear politicians in Washington wondering if the number of migrants crossing our southern border has reached the point of “crisis”.
I know there is a crisis. We live it, every day.
By way of introduction, I have been the Sheriff-Elected of Val Verde County, Texas for the past 12 years. Prior to that, I served in the local law enforcement for 30 years, primarily in Val Verde County.
For the record – not that it matters – I am a proud Democrat.
Val Verde County is huge: 3,200 square miles located just east of Big Bend and about 150 miles west of San Antonio. We share 110 border miles with the Mexican state of Coahuila.
In my 42 years here, I have never seen so many migrants risking their lives to cross the Rio Grande as in recent months.
Death and deportation
Our sheriff’s office usually consists of only four patrollers per team – for the 2 million acres and 110 miles of border. It can get overwhelming quite quickly.
POINT: My deputies fished the body of a young Cuban man in the Rio Grande, identifying it by the passport in his pocket. He probably traveled with another person, but that person has not yet arrived.
POINT: Unlike those from Central and South America who surrender in the hope of proving their asylum claim, Mexican nationals are immediately deported at the nearest point of entry and are therefore more likely to ‘escape capture. Earlier this month, a Mexican national was killed when the driver of the vehicle did not yield, overturning the vehicle and ejecting the deceased. A week later, eight Mexican nationals were killed in a high-speed chase that resulted in a head-on collision, leaving two US citizens in critical but stable condition, one being an 11-year-old girl.
POINT: We were called in to retrieve the remains of a Haitian woman, whose body was located on the American side of the river. She was pregnant with twins and her pregnancy was at term. Her husband’s body was found nearby, on the Mexican side.
POINT: Three of my four deputies spent more than half of their working day detaining 54 South Americans who had surrendered. They held the group together until the border patrol arrived, leaving only one deputy to serve the entire county for several hours. During this event, 75% of my resources were used to support the United States Border Patrol.
In addition to the lack of adequate police resources to protect our community given the current situation, we do not have a real transportation system to move these people once they are released by the border patrol.
Obstruction: I am finally done with the filibustering of the Senate. We are running out of time to save democracy.
Our community does not have the transportation infrastructure and resources to house these people overnight if needed. Currently, the city of Del Rio is lending two buildings to a small group of local volunteers where migrants can be fed, cared for and helped to bond with relatives or friends in destinations of their choice. If overnight accommodation is required, the city is forced to manage the area with a police or firefighter, depleting these resources.
This unprecedented migratory tide began days before January 20, when migrants, like everyone else, realized that the United States was on the verge of becoming lax with immigration policy.
If Washington lawmakers could see what I see everyday
Before the start of the year, our assistants would go on the border patrol two or three times a month. Now it happens four or five times a day, 24 hours a day.
I wish I could invite Washington makers to Val Verde County – and not just for a photoshoot.
If they could stay a few days and see the madness and chaos unfolding right now, there would be no more time wasted trying to decide whether the border situation is a “crisis” or not.
Border strategy: Border cruelty is not the same as force or an effective immigration strategy
If they could have seen my assistants removing the body of a full-term pregnant woman from the Rio Grande, perhaps they could put their differences aside.
If they could watch asylum seekers defy the dangerous Rio Grande surf, they would realize that the years of dragging their feet must come to an end.
If they could see not only what my MPs live with on a daily basis, but also what all border communities face on a daily basis, they may put their egos and ambitions aside and find common ground for a comprehensive solution to immigration reform.
Joe Frank Martinez, a Democrat, is the Sheriff-elect of Val Verde County, Texas.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Frontier Crisis: I’m a Texas Sheriff with 4 MPs patrolling 110 miles