It only took a few incidents regarding illegal immigration in Karnes County for Falls City officials to step up and host an informational session for their community.

A crowd of about 100 concerned Texans gathered inside an auditorium at Falls City Independent School District on June 28 to learn about the impacts from someone they referred to as someone who “has become a sort of resident expert on the criminal effects stemming from this immigration wave,” Goliad Sheriff Roy Boyd.

Sheriff Boyd was late to the event due to a bailout and subsequent investigation in his county.

Karnes County Sheriff Dwayne Villanueva and Deputy Chief Robert Ebrom spoke about an increasing number of calls of concern for property and questions about the newly named “Karnes City Family Staging Center,” which is run by GEO Group, Inc. and Immigration and Customs Enforcement and formerly known as the Karnes County Family Residential Center.

Sheriff Villanueva said he is in contact with the warden every day and has been told there are 200-300 families currently inside, with 10-20 people arriving daily from Laredo, Eagle Pass and and Donna.

“They have a 72-hour turnaround and the majority of them are being put on buses and sent to San Antonio,” he said. “Then from there they are released to their sponsors or put on planes. The warden said there are hotels being used in Brownsville also.”

Residents in the crowd quickly asked the sheriff to verify if any undocumented immigrants were being released onto the streets of Karnes County, but officials only said the warden assured them they were leaving by bus and asked to call 911 if they saw any suspicious activity.

“We have ICE agents in our backyard that are doing something illegal,” said a man in the crowd. “What jurisdiction do we have to, at the very least, harass them? The federal government is doing something we don’t want in our own backyard.

“If you’re going to get put on a bus or a plane and shipped somewhere, why wouldn’t you want to get caught? I mean it seems like the feds are the criminals to me.”

Local resident Sean O’Brien and Chief Ebrom began to explain that the disaster declaration allows local law enforcement to hold smugglers accountable and that Gov. Greg Abbott is trying to move in the right direction.

“We have increased manpower and acquired our new vehicle, class four armor, ammo and firearms,” said Ebrom. “The people of Karnes deserve good protection. This isn’t going to end tomorrow. They’re going to keep coming.”

The keynote speaker, Sheriff Boyd was introduced as the busiest man in South Texas and began by saying, “this is not immigration; it’s slave trade. Nobody deserves to be treated like that.”

Boyd said he calls Homeland Security Agents daily to share information and stop the illegal activities passing through to his county.

“The federal government does not want it stopped,” said Boyd. “I’ve been to Roma and seen where they are not processing them like they say they are. They are shipping them to places in Houston agents aren’t even aware of. It’s being kept secret from their own people. We can’t function this way.”

Boyd said his office has found 12 “stash sites” throughout his county, from the edge of Bee, to Pettus and Weesatche – all recently used and being monitored.

“When we put pressure on them they start using the backroads and they’re uncomfortable,” he said. “They’re moving through on foot and being dropped off in sites in other counties. They’re going to use the paths of least resistance.”

Boyd assured the crowd that the Mexican government and drug cartels were working hand in hand when it came to deportations and smuggling processes.

District Attorney Audrey Gossett Louis addressed questions about self-defense and urged residents not to kill someone for a piece of property and that the only time when using deadly force was acceptable was in defense from deadly force.

“What’s happening on the border is having a direct impact on our communities,” said Boyd. “We have a lot of stolen trucks within the region, a lot of trespassing, we have cartels setting up stash sites on private property without knowledge or permission from owners. They’re scared to go on their own property and fearful of reporting it.

“We have businesses in the region that are actually shell companies for cartels and help launder their money and move a lot of their slaves.

“The cartels have a permanent presence in our counties, they’re in our little towns. They have operatives that live here that are being paid by them and conducting business on their behalf. We cannot allow it to continue on.”

Boyd said he communicates with Bee and Live Oak counties and may not agree on everything, but always work together.

“I’ve gone to Bee County and the Chief (Ronnie Jones) and I have actually gone out and investigated sites. They’re doing things. They’re language may be different than mine, but trust me we are working together.

“I was on the phone with (Live Oak County) Sheriff (Larry) Busby today and we had a long conversation looking at information about trafficking routes. We all work closely together.”

•arivera@mysoutex.com•

 

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