Texas border counties issue disaster declarations after Title 42’s end
By Bethany Blankley
The Center Square
Several South Texas counties have issued disaster declarations as the public health authority Title 42 came to close.
The declarations were made as large groups of people, 15,000 Venezuelans and 15,000 Haitians, arrived in the Rio Grande Valley seeking entry to the U.S. An additional 23,000 are reportedly en route to Del Rio.
In the Rio Grande Valley, Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez issued a disaster declaration stating, “I received credible information from officials with Customs and Border Protection that large groups of migrants are probing our international border in search of crossing points.” He said he decided to declare an emergency “as a first step in securing all available resources.”
It follows a state disaster declaration issued by Gov. Greg Abbott on May 31, 2021, which followed the first disaster declaration filed by Kinney County on April 21, 2021. Roughly 30 counties issued disaster declarations in 2021, most of which are still in effect. Abbott amended the state disaster declaration on April 21, 2023, and also issued subsequent proclamations and executive orders over the border crisis.
Cortez issued the emergency citing a Mexican government estimate that roughly 10,000 people are camped directly across from the border county in Reynosa, Tamaulipas, Mexico, waiting to cross.
“A surge in migrant crossings is a significant public safety and security concern,” he said, “including but not limited to the risk of injury or loss of life and property.”
He also said he “determined that extraordinary measures must be taken to protect all people in and coming through the county.”
Neighboring Cameron County Judge Eddie Trevino also issued a disaster declaration “in response to the imminent threat of widespread or severe damage, injury, or loss of life or property resulting from the Border Security Disaster.”
His declaration cites the Texas declaration stating, “the surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexico border posed an imminent threat of disaster for a number of Texas counties.”
He did so after the city of Brownsville issued a disaster declaration over a week ago and after 15,000 mostly Venezuelans illegally crossed into the U.S. in one week overwhelming Border Patrol in the last week of April.
Since then, RGV Sector Chief Gloria Chavez reported that agents encountered 8,078 illegal foreign nationals the first weekend in May, including 16 smuggling cases. The last weekend in April, they apprehended 6,371 people, including 10 smuggling cases. And this was before the public health authority Title 42 ended May 11.
By May 9, CBP was holding in custody over 27,000 foreign nationals who’d just illegally entered the RGV in Texas from Mexico, a Border Patrol agent stationed there told The Center Square.
“Of that 27,000, a little over 5,000 are processed waiting for their next phase in the process,” the agent said. “Every sector is near 150% capacity,” the agent said, referring to nine U.S. Customs and Border Protection sectors along the southwest border, five of which are in Texas.
Since then, on May 11, the agent told The Center Square that 15,000 Haitians were expected to breach the Anzalduas Bridge Port of Entry. The Army National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety, Border Patrol and Office of Field Operations staff were all “staging” and processing had stopped. When asked what staging meant, the agent replied they were preparing for “violence.”
Further west, Del Rio is also bracing for impact. Its police department issued an alert on May 11 stating that apprehensions in one day increased from 800 to 1400, with 800 in custody. “Unconfirmed intel reports are stating that there are approximately 23,000 migrants possibly heading towards Del Rio, however, they are traveling in groups of 1,000 or less.”
These announcements came after the El Paso mayor declared a state of emergency as mostly single military age men remain homeless in its downtown streets and Texas DPS continues to combat cartel and gang-related crime stemming from the border.
Gov. Greg Abbott deployed the Texas National Guard to the RGV and El Paso, blaming President Joe Biden for creating the crisis.
He said Texas was “being overrun by our own federal government. Texas is being undermined by our own federal government and our efforts to secure our border. It’s only Joe Biden and his open border policies that’s hindered our ability to secure the border.”
Despite this, he said, “Texas is doing more than any other state in the United States of America to defend the southern border.”