(The Center Square) - Texas Governor Greg Abbott held a border summit Thursday night at a Civic Center in the Del Rio, Texas, a border town roughly 152 miles west of San Antonio.
Jackson County Sheriff AJ Lauderbach, who leads a coalition of 18 sheriffs working together to fight illegal immigration, told The Center Square that he had asked the governor's office to meet with landowners and ranchers significantly impacted by illegal immigration along the Texas-Mexico border.
The summit was scheduled three weeks after neighboring Brackettville led the charge to issue disaster declarations, and its county sheriff began implementing a new arrest procedure June 1 increasing enforcement of immigrants evading arrests. County sheriffs say they are seeing no end in sight to high-speed vehicle pursuits, trespassing, break-ins, vehicle thefts, and other crimes that are only increasing in their communities.
The majority of the landowners aren't wealthy and the land has been in their family for generations. There's no insurance to repair fences, so the constant repair to fix fence line comes out of landowners' pockets, Lauderbach said.
The Biden administration getting rid of a policy that worked "simply because he didn't agree with it" is the biggest failure in government Lauderbach said he's ever seen in his decades-long career.
Most Texans aren't land owners and don't own cows or livestock so they may not be able to understand the magnitude of the problem, he said. But they might be able to understand the cost of having their car stolen every day, or someone hitting their car windshield with a hammer every day, or stealing items from their home, or walking into their home.
The difference is that many of these costs or losses associated with theft or vandalism are generally covered by rental or homeowners insurance or car insurance, and the same people don't fall victim to them every day, Lauderbach said. And even with insurance, no individual or family can cover the costs of criminal trespassing or theft occurring on a regular basis.
"It is wrong that they are left to foot the bill for damage caused to their property by those here illegally," Abbott said. "The federal government should pay for those damages."
Part of the disaster declaration Abbott already issued seeks to have the federal government reimburse Texas and Texans for costs incurred by immigrants illegally entering Texas.
The summit came after the close of the 87th legislative session, during which border security was never listed as an emergency legislative priority by Abbott.
A bill introduced by state Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Royse City, to create a Border Security Enhancement Fund did not gain traction. The bill was introduced and sent to the State House Affairs Committee, chaired by Rep. Chris Paddie, R-Marshall, where it never even received a hearing.
Slaton's bill would have created a new fund to be used to prevent human trafficking, and for the "planning, designing, constructing, and maintaining along this state's international border water and transportation infrastructure, technology, and commercial vehicle inspection infrastructure at ports of entry," including "the construction to federal specifications for similar infrastructure of a wall to be named the 'President Donald J. Trump Wall.'"
Earlier this year, Paddie told Slaton his bill would not receive hearing. Slaton announced April 9: "With well over 100,000 illegal immigrants crossing the open Texas border last month, I don't understand how this isn't a top priority for Republican leadership. I asked Speaker Dade Phelan to re-refer the bill to a Republican who might actually take the bill seriously and was told by his office yesterday that they won't do that."
Nearly two months later, Abbott announced he would be unveiling a new border security plan next week.
He also announced a new inter-state compact with Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, and asked other states to send reinforcements.
The interstate compact was first introduced by state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, which was also blocked by House Republican leadership. SB 1254 would have created an interstate compact for joint action on border security. The bill passed the Senate on a party-line vote. It went to the House Calendars Committee chaired by Rep. Dustin Burrows, R-Lubbock, who never advanced the bill.
Abbott also indirectly criticized Vice President Kamala Harris Thursday night after her response to reporter questions about the border crisis. Tasked with managing the border crisis, Harris has yet to visit the border. Neither she nor Biden have responded to requests made by Abbott regarding border security.
Abbott said what is happening at the border is "no laughing matter."
"This is something that is not a tourism site for members of congress to make an annual pilgrimage to and see the border and go back and do absolutely nothing at the federal government level to solve the crisis," the Texas governor said. "Long term, only Congress and the president can fix our broken border, but in the meantime Texas is going to do everything possible, including beginning to make arrests to keep our communities safe, to keep the cartels and smugglers out. We are going to do everything we can to secure the border."