The Texas Border Surge Is Backfiring


State-TrooperBy Michael Seifert

Last year, the Texas Legislature passed an $800 million omnibus bill that, among other things, flooded the Rio Grande Valley with law enforcement officers. And this week, a Texas Senate subcommittee on border security will hold hearings to determine the necessity of increased collaboration between local law enforcement, state troopers, and federal immigration agents.

The last thing we need in the valley is more state and local cops enforcing immigration law.

Having served as a pastor of several Roman Catholic churches in the Rio Grande Valley for most of the last 30 years, I am intimately familiar with the struggles and challenges facing the residents of border communities.

In addition to the extreme poverty of the area, community members have had to deal with the brunt of our nation’s misunderstandings over what constitutes border security. This has become much worse over the past six years as our state’s leadership has irresponsibly amplified the national paranoia about the border.

What’s almost never mentioned in our national discussions is that border communities from Brownsville to El Paso are among the safest places in Texas. There is far more violent crime in Midland or Houston than there is in McAllen or Del Rio.

However, the hugely increased number of federal agents as well as state troopers has had the paradoxical impact of making border residents feel less secure. There is an extraordinary number of these agents on our streets and highways and in our neighborhoods. We see Border Patrol agents near shopping centers and schools. In some parts of west Hidalgo County and in Starr County, I have seen state troopers parked along the highway nearly every 200 yards.

If these police agencies had established a record of public trust, perhaps their presence would not be so onerous. However, that is not the case.

The Border Patrol has yet to implement policies that would make them a fully transparent, publically responsible institution. On the contrary, two years ago this month, Border Patrol agent Esteban Manzanares raped and attempted to murder two teenagers and a mother while on patrol. The public has yet to receive a clear communication of what happened, and why it happened. And while that is the worst example, it’s certainly not the only one: Over the last six years, over 20 Border Patrol agents have been accused of sexual assault.

Not long before the Manzanares incident, state troopers shot two unarmed immigrants to death while sniping at them from a helicopter during a chase. The details of this incident were relayed to the public not by the Department of Public Safety, but by a news story.

And while these examples represent the extreme, residents in the Rio Grande Valley suffer daily indignities at the hands of state troopers who routinely engage in racial profiling that they fail to accurately report.

In short, neither DPS nor the Border Patrol is trusted by the community. The perceived collaboration between local police, state troopers, and the Border Patrol makes any resident with a lick of common sense hesitant about calling the police. And it is this hesitancy that makes our communities unsafe — no one wants stash houses or potentially dangerous activity near our families, but the threat of state-mandated “boots on the ground” puts us between a rock and a hard place.

Immigration enforcement and local policing responsibilities are quite different. The federal government spends a huge amount of resources training its agents. While I continue to have trouble with the lack of accountability by the Border Patrol, I am very uncomfortable with the notion that a local police officer would be expected to know and enforce immigration law.

Finally, living in a region that has suffered generations of poorly funded schools, no public hospital, and insufficient storm drainage infrastructure makes it difficult for me to understand how the state will spend almost $1 billion duplicating federal policing efforts.

In the end, these are Texans we’re talking about, living in Texas cities and Texas towns. But over the past few years, they’ve begun to feel like occupied territories. Our money, our resources, and our time would be far better spent reinvigorating these lively and vibrant communities than militarizing them.

Michael Seifert writes for the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network


About The Author

Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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15 thoughts on “The Texas Border Surge Is Backfiring”

  1. South of Davis

    Fr. Michael writes:

    > The Texas Border Surge Is Backfiring

    It sounds like Fr. Michael believes the politicians who told them the “Border Surge” was going to reduce crime or immigration when the real purpose of the “Border Surge” was to get more overtime money for law enforcement and get more people in to the jails so the prison guard unions (who are a top donor to both Dems and the GOP in every state) also get more overtime.

    About 80% of American adults support “stricter border control to try to reduce illegal immigration.” (93% Republicans, 76% Democrats) but only about 5% of elected officials support “stricter border control to try to reduce illegal immigration.” since most political donors want even more legal and illegal immigration.

    If Fr. Michael looks at the increase in cash to the supporters of the “Border Surge” he will see that it is not “backfiring” but “working perfectly” (the elected officials are learning from their peers in Washington who funneled Billions to their donors with the “Iraq Surge”):

  2. TrueBlueDevil

    The author mentions one extreme, uncommon death of an illegal immigrant, but passes over the huge amount of violent crime committed on a daily basis in our nation by the same illegal immigrants. Recently we had a young women murdered in San Francisco, and two Sheriffs in Sacramento, but the media still ignores the massive problem.

      1. TrueBlueDevil

        From the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

        – 76.7% of offenders are US citizens, which means that 23.3% are non citizens. (Page 1, bullet point 3.)

        If we are to believe the often-stated statistic that we have 12 million illegal immigrants (I don’t believe the number), that is roughly 3% of our nation’s population. That is highly disproportional.

      2. South of Davis

        wdf1 wrote:

        > Please elaborate.  Sources?

        Do you really need BP to elaborate and give sources?

        How about calling a teacher friend at a school with a lot of illegal immigrants and ask how many times a week the cops show up (I’m going to bet that the school has more crime than we have at a similar school in Davis).

        I speak Spanish talk to (legal and illegal) people from Mexico almost every day and just like crime has been increasing in Mexico it is increasing in parts of California with lots of (legal and illegal) people from Mexico.

        It is sad that when I talk to young people from Mexico they find it hard to believe that Gringos like me used to drive all over Baja camping and surfing without worrying that they would get killed…

    1. Frankly

      Good sleuthing.  I am not surprised.

      Having served as a Pastor of a Roman Catholic Church

      Right.  Not a Priest of course.  It is pretty easy to become a Pastor… just start a church and roll some dough to the dioceses.

      But let’s say he was a bonafide Pastor.  There is certainly a conflict of interest in that he would benefit from a larger congregation… legal or illegal.

      1. hpierce

        just start a church and roll some dough to the dioceses.

        An inaccurate, bigoted, contemptible statement… this being Holy Thursday, I forgive you, for you know not what you say/do.

        1. Frankly

          Ok, take it easy on me… I am only a little ol’ confimed Episcopalian boy.   I read it somewhere that a Roman Catholic Pastor is much easier to become than is a Roman Catholic Priest.  Am I wrong?

  3. TrueBlueDevil

    GAO: Criminal Alien Statistics

    Various items …

    In Federal prisons: 55,000

    Local jails: 296,000 (2009)

    “About 50 percent of the criminal aliens in our study population were arrested at least once for either assault, homicide, robbery, a sex offense, or kidnapping.” (p. 19)

    Assault: 213,047    7% (of offenses committed, p. 21)

    Sex offenses:  69,929  (2%)

    Homicides:   25,064  (1%)


  4. Misanthrop

    So here is a perfect example of the failure of the Vanguard comment policy in action. Many people have stopped reading the Vanguard or its comments  not to mention those who no longer participate because if you call out the usual suspects the comments get “moderated.” Now what we are left with is an article on immigration policy that draws comments from the usual suspects and only one person bothers to engage and rebut the easily disputed arguments made here. I could do it but its not worth the trouble and then have my remarks moderated by the uneven hand of Vanguard censors. At the end of the day what you are left with is not a civil debate but an uncivil one where the voices of xenophobia go unchallenged. Welcome to the sanitized world of Vanguard commentary.

    1. South of Davis

      Misanthrop wrote:

      >  I could do it but its not worth the trouble

      When you have time to type over 100 words but don’t have the time to cut and paste a link to rebut what has been said most people will assume that you can’t find a link to rebut what has been said.

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