‘Border crisis’ estimates from Texas counties total about $25,000

Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe, seen here at the border security summit in Del Rio on June 10, sent a letter to Gov. Abbott describing a "dire situation" due to the rise in migrant crossings. (Valerie Gonzalez | [email protected])

A statewide request from Gov. Greg Abbott’s office for financial records tallying costs associated with the “humanitarian crisis” — a precursor to the governor’s proclamation declaring a disaster in certain counties — has thus far yielded just $25,000 in cost estimates.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s office sent letters to all 254 counties on April 26 requesting financial estimates.

“I ask that you send my office a full and accurate estimate of the fiscal impact the current border crisis is having on your county, including the costs you have incurred and that you expect to incur,” the letter read.

Only eight counties responded — Jasper, Hood, Brown, Hardin, De Witt, Live Oak, Goliad and Kinney — as of June 18, the date The Monitor’s public information request was sent to the governor’s office. No deadline was specified and more reports could still be submitted.

The combined total of costs between the two counties that provided an estimate, Hood and Brown, was a little under $25,000.

Hood County sent a six-page letter with statistics of jail expenses incurred by housing “illegal immigrants” from Jan.1 to April 30 totaling $10,437.54.

Brown County sent a letter tracking the cost to care and house undocumented inmates from December 2020 through March 2021 for a total of $14,310.

The other counties sent letters in support of the governor’s launch of Operation Lone Star in March and the request for federal reimbursements for expenses incurred as a consequence to the Biden administration’s changes to immigration policy.

Brad Coe, a former Border Patrol agent and current Kinney County sheriff, sent a letter addressing a different kind of cost.

“One death of an elderly county resident has already occurred due to county EMS not being available when they were deployed to a vehicle rollover that occurred during a high-speed pursuit and bailout of illegal aliens,” the letter read, adding, “This is unacceptable.”

Though Coe did not include a cost estimate, he detailed a shift in the county’s needs.

“The residents of Kinney County are in a dire situation,” Coe wrote. “Our homes are being broken into in the middle of the night. The main street of our small town is now the place of high-speed car chases. Walking outside on our own property after dark is no longer safe.”

Coe expressed frustration and disappointment with the Texas Division of Emergency Management over a lack of response to their declared disaster from April 21. The sheriff asked the governor for resources to protect their citizens like “boots on the ground,” surveillance technology to counter Mexican cartel tactics, and medical resources.

In spite of the low cost estimates received, the governor issued a state of disaster a month after his letter was sent to county judges.

Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez said he asked for assessments from his office but to no avail.

None of the other counties in the Valley submitted the requested reports.

In mid-June, Abbott unveiled costlier border plans during a border security summit in Del Rio, where he talked about the $1 billion budget allocated to border security by the Texas Legislature. Later, the governor said $250 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice would be used as a “down payment” to begin construction on a border wall.