As immigration continues to be a hot-button issue from Washington to the water cooler, the effects of the nation’s border policy continue to be experienced locally as law-enforcement personnel throughout South Texas continue to be involved in pursuits of illegal aliens.
In Bee County, Sheriff Alden Southmayd said he definitely has noticed an increase in interactions with undocumented immigrants. Most of these incidents have occurred near Beeville on U.S. Highway 59 and state Highway 202, while others have been in the northern part of the county near Pettus.
“They’re likely en route to San Antonio or Houston,” he said.
During the overnight hours of April 17 into April 18, Bee County deputies pursued a Ford pickup truck into Goliad County. The truck was driven into a ranch near the intersection of Farm-to-Market roads 2442 and 883 before its occupants eluded capture.
On April 16 at 1:55 p.m., deputies assisted by Texas Department of Public Safety troopers pursued a silver Chevrolet pickup truck to an area near the interchange of U.S. highways 181 and 59 in Beeville, where the vehicle was driven into the brush. Deputies were able to detain a total of 14 men – four riding in the cab, 10 in the bed under a tonneau cover.
“They all were just burning up,” Southmayd said. “All they wanted was water.”
The group, all men from Mexico and Honduras, were transported to the Bee County Jail, were given food and water before being picked up later that day by agents from the U.S. Border Patrol.
“(The men) told us they had been walking for 12 hours before they got picked up and put in the truck,” Southmayd said.
In the late afternoon April 19, a pursuit involving illegal aliens caused some tense moments in the area of the May Ranch near the Live Oak County line, where a group of suspected fugitives were seen walking through the brush after a bailing out of a vehicle earlier that day. Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Ronnie Jones said a woman and her 4-year-old child, both of whom were undocumented, were taken into custody.
The chase initially was reported to have started in Live Oak County. But Live Oak County Sheriff Larry Busby said the pursuit actually began in San Patricio County
“It ran into Live Oak County, then into Bee County, and ended up in Live Oak County,” he said.
It is unknown how many were in the 2015 GMC crew cab pickup truck, but Busby said at least four – one from El Salvador, three from Honduras – were captured.
“The pursuit was coming up (Interstate) 37 and before the Live Oak County deputy came up to them, they went through the Dancing Elk Ranch,” he said.
The deputy drove around to a county road that runs behind the property, where he was able to encounter the fleeing truck, Busby said. Bee County deputies joined in the chase before it continued down U.S. 59 and eventually into the May Ranch before going back into Live Oak County.
Additionally, deputies were assisted by DPS troopers on the ground and in the air.
Southmayd said the pursuits with those smuggling humans through the area have occurred during day and night, as vehicles overloaded with sometimes as many as 20 passengers are driven in a manner to try and blend in with normal traffic. But the sheriff fears that the situation is not going to get better anytime soon.
“It’s going to get worse,” Southmayd said. “They made a big mistake in relaxing on that border and I think that’s going to cause a surge of people wanting to get across before they can do something about it.”
Meanwhile, vigilance is urged.
“Be observant,” Southmayd said. “If you see something suspicious, report it.
“Lock your doors, lock your vehicles and be aware of your surroundings.”
Those who notice damage to fences should notify the sheriff’s office, so that the property owner can be notified and actions can be taken to secure livestock.
Southmayd reminds residents that the Bee County Sheriff’s Office offers a property registration program, which makes it easier for deputies to contact property owners in case of an emergency. For more information, call 361-362-3221.