Rural counties feel effects of border crisis

Customs and Border Protection released numbers this week showing the number of people caught crossing the border illegally or deemed inadmissible to the U.S. continued to increase during the month of May.

Many rural Texas counties, not directly adjacent to the border, are feeling the effects of this crisis.

“How much would you say the border impacts your office’s day-to-day activities?” asked KPRC 2 Investigator Robert Arnold.

“It winds up absorbing a considerable amount of our time,” said Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd.

Goliad County is two hours south of Houston but is one of the main routes for smugglers looking to move people and drugs from the border to larger cities.

“What we’ve become is a relay point for the route between the (Rio Grande Valley) and for between Houston,” said Boyd. “This is something that historically was not a major problem this far north.”

Border encounters by month (Copyright 2021 by KPRC Click2Houston - All rights reserved.)

The county is 859 square miles in size and mostly comprised of farm and ranchland. Boyd said smugglers are using abandoned or rarely used buildings on many of these properties to temporarily stash people and drugs.

Boyd said other concerns are repeated damage to fences by smugglers leading large groups of immigrants through land owners’ properties.

“This criminal element is coming into our community, driving stolen trucks, hauling drugs, hauling illegal aliens, trespassing on private property,” said Boyd.

Boyd showed KPRC 2 several properties where clothes, toilet articles, and trash have been left behind by these groups. One property required 20 industrial-sized garbage bags to clean up the trash left behind.

In addition to the trash, Boyd said his deputies have found several seats ripped out of stolen SUVs discarded in these spots. Smugglers typically rip out seats in SUVs and trucks to make more room for illicit cargo.

Boyd’s office even had to contend with the body of young Honduran women dumped on the side of the road, who likely died while being smuggled.

“The most likely explanation of what happened to that young lady is asphyxiation,” said Boyd.

Working with Homeland Security investigators, Boyd said his office was able to locate the woman’s family in Honduras and return her body for burial. Boyd said his office only has enough manpower for two deputies a shift to patrol the county, which makes it easier for smugglers to traverse back roads unseen.

Boyd is now trying a tactic used by cartels in Mexico.

“I put these signs up a little over a month ago,” Boyd.

“Warning, human and drug traffickers turn around, do not enter the Goliad county, go around. If not, we are going to hunt you down and put you in the Goliad County jail,” the sign reads.

“I thought why can’t we do that here? We’ll just put the sign-up and tell them this isn’t their territory, they need to go around,” said Boyd. “I may not be able to stop the flow, but at least I can do my best to bring it to a trickle in Goliad county.”

Boyd said he saw a decrease in activity shortly after the signs went up. Goliad is one of several counties that issued a disaster declaration in advance of the one issued by Governor Greg Abbott.

“We all came to the conclusion that the only way to make a real difference in this is for the state to become involved,” said Boyd. “We have an emergency that is beyond the capacity of local law enforcement and local jurisdictions to handle.”