A Texas border sheriff has changed his mind due to a crime spike in his area and says he will now work with state officials to apprehend migrants who commit trespassing violations, the Washington Examiner reported.
Maverick County Sheriff Tom Schmerber initially chose not to take part in Gov. Greg Abbott’s effort to arrest migrants on state charges because Texas police and courts have no jurisdiction over federal immigration law.
“The state’s been after me for a few months,” Schmerber told the Examiner. “I hesitated for about two months. What kind of pushed me to really was because there were more things that were happening.
“I didn’t see migrants coming in and just moving on. I saw immigrants get into houses, breaking in, damaging, taking things. I started getting calls from ranchers about all the damage they were doing — calls from neighborhoods close to the city about breaking in, taking things.”
Schmerber also cited a recent incident in which a Honduran man broke into the home of a 73-year-old woman and sexually assaulted her.
U.S. border authorities encountered more than 259,000 people who illegally attempted to cross the border in the Del Rio region, which includes Maverick County, during fiscal year 2021 that ended in September. About 40,000 people were encountered the previous year.
Abbott, R-Texas, in July ordered the National Guard to help local law enforcement with arresting migrants who break state laws, such as trespassing, amid the current border crisis.
“If somebody goes onto a ranch and they jump the fence, that’s going to be a state charge now because of trespassing,” Schmerber told the Examiner. “If they go into a house, they’re going to have another charge for breaking into private property.”
Migrants and drug smugglers caught trespassing on private property will be prosecuted by the county attorney on the misdemeanor state charge of criminal trespassing.
Drug and human smugglers could face additional charges.
Schmerber was awaiting the official go-ahead to begin arresting illegal immigrant trespassers and referring them for prosecution, the Examiner said.
One reason Schmerber did not partner with the state initially was a concern about Maverick County’s limited jail space amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now, detainees will be transported to an outdoor processing facility in Val Verde County before being sent to a county jail in Dilley, Texas, the Examiner reported.
As part of its agreement with the state, Maverick County will receive $1.6 million to cover additional border security-related costs.
Schmerber told the Examiner he planned to spend the money hiring more deputies, vehicles, and equipment.