A Texas border sheriff reports human smugglers are forcing vehicle pursuits on an alarming basis. The sheriff fears innocent people and migrants could be injured due to recklessness.
“They’re transporting people through our county, trying to get them up to cities north of us. Houston is usually one of the biggest destinations for these folks,” Willacy County Sheriff Joe Salazar, a 20-year law enforcement veteran, told KENS CBS5 in an exclusive interview. “We’re stopping people for some type of an infraction, whether it’s speeding, taillight is out. These folks that are transporting these people, they just get reckless.”
Salazar said the number of pursuits jumped to 20 in November. One month earlier, only nine took place. Only one pursuit occurred in September and in July, only four.
“The potential for people to lose their lives because of this kind of stuff. The recklessness of not stopping this is crazy,” the Texas border sheriff explained. “We are busy for a county law enforcement agency of our size. I compare it to a tide that comes in and goes.”
Willacy County is located one county inland from the Texas border with Mexico — just north of Brownsville. Salazar said it is not uncommon for his department to only have three deputies on duty during any shift.
“For one of them to get tied up with a pursuit or a bailout or a report of, you know, 20 to 30 people walking along the ranch lands, it ties up our assets,” he explained. “It keeps us from being out in the communities and working other law enforcement duties that we have.”
The county is located in the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley Sector — the nation’s busiest. During Fiscal Year 2021, which ended on September 30, 2021, more than a half-million migrants were apprehended by Border Patrol agents in this sector. Nearly 100,000 more have been apprehended so far in the new fiscal year.