U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen visited the Rio Grande Valley Thursday. She was touring the border wall and meeting law enforcement officers from across the state.
The sheriffs of Nueces and Refugio counties were among more than two dozen law enforcement agencies taking part in a round table discussion on border security.
Secretary Nielsen said Border Patrol Detention Facilities are at capacity, where they house hundreds of illegal immigrants.
Refugio County Sheriff Raul “Pinky” Gonzales had a firsthand look at the overcrowding.
“These Border Patrol agents are just overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with these illegal immigrants,” Gonzales said.
Gonzales, as well as Nueces County Sheriff John Chris Hooper, have partnered with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to carry out its 287 (g) program.
That initiative gives state and local agencies the authority to enforce immigration policies.
“A lot of people have a misconception of 287 (g),” Gonzales said. “They think ICE is just the devil themselves, but all this program does is authorizes us to process these illegal criminals committing crimes in our community.”
“We have created the ability in our jail to assist the Border Patrol in identifying criminal illegal aliens to see that they’re off the streets of Nueces County,” Hooper said, “And that program is alive and well in our jail.”
Gonzales and Hooper said both counties are directly affected by these crimes because of their proximity to one of the most traveled interstates in the country.
“This is a daily occurrence,” Gonzales said. “Weekly for sure.”
“We have 25 miles of Highway 77 running straight through the heart of Nueces County, and it is the pipeline to Houston and beyond,” Hooper said.
Friday, Texas sheriffs will tour a ranch in the Rio Grande Valley known for being a common point of illegal entry into the country.