On Monday, President Barack Obama is asking U.S. Congress for $2 billion in emergency funding in order to deal with the wave of Central American immigrants flooding the U.S. border. The problem has been severe in South Texas. But what about here in West Texas? For KRTS News, Tom Michael spoke with Rod Ponton, the 83rd District Attorney.
In this fiscal year alone, Border Patrol has detained more than 50,000 children. Many arrive without their parents. Last week, a Central American child was reportedly found in the Big Bend region. On Friday, Rod Ponton, the District Attorney for the 83rd District of Texas, met with the new Presidio Port Director, John Deputy, and other border officials.
Following the visit, Ponton told KRTS, “It’s a pretty complex issue. You have a lot of violence and drug gangs and poverty in their countries of origin in Central America. So you have some people legitimately fleeing that. You also have some people getting trafficked.”
Unlike in other parts of Texas, however, less than a dozen minors have been apprehended in the Big Bend region in recent weeks.
“It appears we haven’t seen very much of an increase in our part of the border from unaccompanied minors or young families crossing (into Texas),” said Ponton.
As “the surge” becomes a problem elsewhere along the border, officials in West Texas are drafting contingency plans. Because of the backlog in the courts, many children who are detained can wait several years before being processed and deported.
Ponton warns that what may begin as a federal issue, affects law enforcement at the state level, as well. “If there’s more and more pressure put on the border in areas to the west and to the east, smugglers will start bringing more people to this area.”
“It may begin with a rise in federal crimes,” explained Ponton, “but state crimes can get associated with that. So that does have an impact on the workload in my office.”