Illegal Immigration - A Federal Responsibility that Creates Texas-Size Problems for Texans
A lot of Texas politicians are quick to blame the federal government for the problems in Texas related to illegal immigration. While working with U.S. Border Watch, I have had the opportunity to speak with a lot of Texas elected officials about these problems, particularly those being faced in South Texas that are directly related to illegal immigration. Most often the response has been, immigration is a federal issue, we cannot enforce federal law.
That is only half true. Yes, illegal immigration is a federal issue, but when a team of illegal immigrants is hiking through a rancher's land in South Texas, it is not federal law that is being violated. It is Texas state law that is being violated. It's called trespassing. When these immigrants cut the wire fences and let cattle roam out onto our highways, it is not a violation of federal law. It is our state laws against vandalism and reckless endangerment that are being violated. When women are being raped and children molested, it is a violation of state law not federal law, yet "rape trees" like the one shown below are found by ranchers and border volunteers frequently.
South Texas "Rape Tree"
"Rape Trees" began showing up more and more frequently as human smuggling became big business for the drug cartels. Coyotes would frequently rape many of the women who were "in their care" while trafficking them into Texas. After raping the women, they would hang their bras or panties on these trees as trophies of their conquest. Each of these represent Texas crimes.
At a meeting of the Downtown Houston Pachyderm Club, I asked State Representative Dan Branch a question about what would he do as Texas Attorney General to deal with the problem of illegal immigration. I got a vague answer about how this is a federal problem and that he would sue the federal government to recoup the costs associated with illegal immigration. After I quit yawning, I thought back to the answer Texas Railroad Commission Chairman Barry Smitherman gave to the same question.
In an interview I posted on Sept 3rd, I asked Smitherman what role the Texas Attorney General should play in this critical problem for Texans.
"This will be a priority of my office," he stated. Smitherman explained he will, "provide our resources [Texas AG resources] to border DA’s and border sheriffs. The Attorney General’s office does not have primary jurisdiction for prosecuting crimes, but we can be brought in to assist a local DA, or we can take over a case if we are so requested."
He said he would make law enforcement along the border aware that his office wants to help them prosecute crimes. "And I mean all crime. Think of it as New York City did with the broken windows prosecution. I don’t care if you’re jaywalking, if you’re trespassing, if you’re littering, much less DWI, assault, any crime, we need to prosecute, because if we can’t deport illegal aliens, we can certainly put the ones that are breaking the law in jail, and send a clear message: if you’re coming to America, you have to obey the law."
This is where experience matters. You see, Barry Smitherman was a prosecutor. He thinks and acts like a prosecutor. He understands the limited resources that prosecutors in small counties like those in South Texas have to deal with and why it is important to provide assistance from the state level.
When I dove deeper with a follow up question on this topic about how he would actually do this, he responded with a direct and on-point response and never once tried to deflect responsibility to the federal government.
"We should create a unit that would specialize in assisting local DAs to prosecute these crimes," Smitherman responded. "You described it perfectly. What happens is someone comes and they cut a fence or they tear down a fence, they go through a pasture, they stop and have a camp, they litter, they leave all of their remains, then they may break the water well, or otherwise damage the property, maybe break into a shed, steal some equipment – those are all state crimes. They all need to be prosecuted. We don’t need to create a new law, the laws are already there. We just need to put people to work on those cases, putting people in jail."
This is what we need in a Texas Attorney General. Smitherman thinks like a prosecutor because he has been a prosecutor. Smitherman understands how to deploy the resources of a state agency because he has run two very large and powerful state agencies. Smitherman understands the problems facing ranchers in South Texas because he has worked closely with them in the past.
Illegal immigration is a federal issue. But, it is the government of the State of Texas that is responsible for the safety of Texans, not the federal government. We need to challenge all candidates for public office on this issue and ask them directly - How will you use your office to protect the citizens of Texas? And then, don't accept a non-answer answer to your question. Drill down and get specifics.