Several Coastal Bend law enforcement representatives were among the officials present during former President Donald Trump's and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's visit to the U.S./Mexico border city of Weslaco on Wednesday.
Brooks County Sheriff Urbino "Benny" Martinez made the trip, along with Nueces County Sheriff J.C. Hooper. Brooks is one of three local counties included in an amended a border crisis disaster declaration put out ahead of Wednesday's trip, along with Jim Hogg and Kenedy.
Martinez told Trump on Wednesday that he and his staff are overwhelmed chasing illegal immigrants, and that they are uncovering many more dead bodies of migrants than when Trump was in office.
“We just don’t have the resources,” he said.
Abbott, who is up for reelection in 2022, has vowed to build a wall at the border, and has begun crowdsourcing funds in order to make it a reality.
Abbott and Trump held a briefing in which they discussed border security, among and other topics.
Abbott praised Trump's policies regarding border security during his presidency.
"Anytime I called upon the president, he was there to step up and help our fellow Texans," Abbott said at the beginning of the media briefing. "And one of the things he did better than anyone else, and definitely better than any other president, is he stepped up. He secured our border and kept Texans and Americans safe."
Abbott did not discuss the Trump administration's "zero tolerance" policy that resulted in the separation of migrant children from their families
According to Abbott, the number of people apprehended after coming across the border increased more than 800 percent from May 2020 until May 2021. He also said current Vice President Kamala Harris is misleading America about the problems at the border.
"President Biden's open-border policies have led to a humanitarian crisis at our southern border as record levels of illegal immigrants, drugs, and contraband pour into Texas," Abbott said.
Harris visited the border Friday, accompanied by Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso.
"Let's recognize, with a sense of humanity, that these issues must be addressed in a way that is informed by fact, and informed by reality, and informed by perspective that actually is dedicated to addressing problems and fixing them in the most constructive and productive way," Harris said during that trip. " The president and I are absolutely committed to ensuring our immigration system is orderly and humane - and I do believe we are making progress in that regard."
Trump also praised Abbott for his border response, but the border wasn't the only thing on Trump's mind during the visit, also taking the time to attack Democrats and Hillary Clinton, and repeat claims of election fraud during his comments.
"We built a wall that was not penetrable, and we were just about finished," he said. "And then we had an election where we did much better than we did the first time and, amazingly, we lost."
President Joe Biden halted construction of the wall Trump was building with federal funds his first day in office, returning $2 billion to the U.S. Defense Department from monies that had been allocated to that project.
The governor held a border security summit in Del Rio earlier this month in which he announced a plan to crack down on illegal border crossings.
Along the southwest border in May, there were 180,034 attempted border crossings. Of these, unaccompanied children and single minors from what is known as the "Northern Triangle" accounted for 10,765 and family units 22,630, according to statistics provided by the Border Patrol.
The Northern Triangle includes the South American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador.
The disaster declaration allows for alternative detention facilities or an expansion of jail capacity to house undocumented immigrants arrested on state jail offenses such as trespassing.
Meanwhile, an advocacy group that provides free and affordable legal services to the immigrant community says the declaration is unconstitutional.
Beatriz Alvarado, a community organizer with RAICES, says that immigration violations are civil violations, not criminal.
"Under the Trump administration, we saw what happened when they criminalized immigration," Alvarado said. "We saw the family separations happening at the border.
"So, we’re expecting the same things to happen. And kind of the same thing to play out. A lot of hurt, a lot of pain for years until it’s finally determined in the courts that what they did was terrible and inhumane and horrifying."
Abbott has requested other states send law enforcement personnel to assist in arresting and jailing via an Emergency Management Assistance Compact.
In Texas, 28 counties have opted into the declaration, but counties along the border have opted out, Alvarado says.
"Despite this, he's still going to the border and he's still making this bizarre political move to push this hateful anti-immigrant agenda that Trump had been pushing while he was still in office," she said.
Alvarado said that long-term trends show higher peak crossing numbers during this time of year and the Biden administration should have prepared for the influx of migrants.
"We didn't prepare," Alvarado said. "The only thing we can do to prepare in a humane way is to receive them humanely."