SOUTH TEXAS (NEWSRADIO 1080 KRLD) – The Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson's arrival in Texas is being met with mixed feelings by some law enforcement officials along the border.
Don Reay, the Executive Director of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition, says a visit by Johnson may have had more of an impact before plans were put into effect to transport and house the thousands of unaccompanied minors that have come into Texas through Mexico illegally.
"I would wish that this would have been done prior to all of this action so that there had been some advance knowledge of all of these actions passed onto local governments rather than — here it is folks," says Reay. "The first I've heard of this trip is through the news media. None of my Sheriffs have contacted us to let them know that they've been contacted."
He thinks that Johnson's arrival in Texas, only a few days after state leaders announced a border security surge, is more than just coincidental.
"I think it's natural that he would come… especially in the light that the state of Texas has taken some very affirmative action as far as trying to deal with what is happening along our border and the impact that an influx of people has on our local communities," says Reay.
In recent months, more than 47,000 unaccompanied minors from Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador have entered the U.S. illegally. It has overwhelmed border patrol and state resources to care and house them while they go through the immigration process. Some of those kids have been shipped to other states, like Arizona.
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio thinks Johnson's visit to Texas instead of the Grand Canyon State is a bit of a slap in the face.
"I think it's kind of an insult. He's going to Texas but he dumped all these people in Arizona at the Greyhound bus stop right around the corner from my office," says Arpaio. "I've got a lot of questions to ask him, but he's not going to call me. I'll even go to Texas if he's not willing to spend the gas to come to Arizona."
Johnson and senior officials from the White House, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Departments of Defense, Justice, and Health and Human Services, will visit U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland. The group will be viewing the ongoing government-wide response to the influx of unaccompanied children across the Southwest border, but a detailed schedule of their trip has not been released.
"He's gonna go down there, and they're going to look at the facilities — which by the way — everybody accuses me of how I run an awful jail — ‘a tent city.' Mine are like a country club compared to how they're keeping these young people," says Arpaio. "I'm sure they're going to clean up the place a little before he shows up. I'm talking about his own people who are going to at least clean the toilets."
Arpaio, like Reay, thinks that Johnson's visit has been timed with the announcement of a recent security surge along the Texas-Mexico border.
"Is it because my friend Governor Perry is sending out the DPS to patrol the border?" Arpaio wonders. "It think it's all politics. Maybe they think Perry is going to run for President again."
Arpaio also believes that Johnson should have visited the border sooner.
"I'm not trying to criticize this guy, but it's a little kind of late," says Arpaio. "And the question I would ask him is why you coming now? What happened all of a sudden? Is it because the media started talking about it? Is it because the people are angry?"
We reached out to Secretary Jeh Johnson for comment, and his office referred us to the following remarks about the situation along the border he made during testimony on June 11 before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
From 2011, there were approximately 6,000 that year. This year, there will be multiples of that. This correlates with an overall rise in illegal migration into the Rio Grande Valley Sector, principally from what we referred to as third country nationals. Those from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, who are approximately three quarters of that population.
To meet this surge, we've had to surge resources that are normally dedicated to things such as border security. I saw this situation vividly myself, on May 11th, when I visited McAllen Station Processing Center. It happened to be Sunday, Mother's Day. I approached a 10 year old girl, and asked her, "Where's your mother?" And she told me, "I don't have a mother. I'm looking for my father in the United States." I returned to Washington the next day, determined to do something about the situation.
Undeniably, there is a problem of humanitarian proportions in the Rio Grande Valley Sector that we must deal with. So, here is what we're doing about it. Number one, on Monday, May 12, I declared a Level Four Condition of Readiness within the Department of Homeland Security, which is, essentially, a determination that the capacity of CBP and ICE to deal with the situation is — is — is full, and we need other resources of DHS. I appointed the Deputy Chief of the Border Patrol to be the DHS coordinator of that effort for a DHS wide response to this situation.