(The Center Square) – As one small border town has been overrun by record numbers of illegal foreign nationals pouring through from Mexico, an unlikely group of sheriff’s deputies have come to their aid.
The deputies volunteered to defend the homeland at the border nearly every day, every week, for 30 months. To do so, they traveled roughly 400 miles from a county that stretches from the Houston suburbs to Galveston Island. The island and county are named after the Spanish military leader, Bernardo de Gálvez, who expressed support for the U.S. during the Revolutionary War.
Galveston Island, arguably one of the most popular destinations in Galveston County, has a long military history. Texans began serving at its port, which housed the Texas Navy during the Texas Revolution, and were stationed at Fort Travis and Fort Crockett to implement coastal defenses during World War I and II.
During the Battle of Galveston, Confederate soldiers successfully expelled Union troops in January 1863, making Galveston the only major port under Confederate control at the end of the Civil War.
The city also played an historic role in announcing the Emancipation Proclamation. During the Spanish-American war, Galveston also made “hurried and valiant efforts to defend its namesake port city against any Spanish threat,” the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recently discovered.
Men and women from Galveston County answered the call to serve at the border, led by Galveston County Sheriff Henry Trochesset. Trochesset was the first and only sheriff in Texas, and the entire United States, to deploy deputies to the Texas-Mexico border to assist border sheriffs for 30 consecutive months. After creating the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office’s first Border Security Response Team (BSRT), more than 65 deputies volunteered to participate in more than 100 two-week deployments at the border since August 2021.
The Texas Legislature allocated funding to support efforts like the BSRT through Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star. GCSO Major Ray Nolen has overseen the grant process as well as the BSRT. Their job is to “enhance interagency border security operations supporting OLS, including facilitating directed actions to deter and interdict criminal activity and detain non-citizens arrested for state crimes related to the border crisis,” he told The Center Square.
OLS is Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s border security mission launched in 2021 shortly after President Joe Biden first took office and drastically changed U.S. border policy.
GCSO BSRT deputies were first deployed to Val Verde County on July 21, 2021, to work at the Del Rio Correctional Facility. On Aug. 18, 2021, they were deployed to assist Kinney County Sheriff’s deputies on patrol. The majority, roughly 60% of 65 deputies, have deployed more than once, Nolen said.
Their combined efforts have led to apprehending 8,263 adults and 229 minors. They’ve also made 1,436 felony arrests, 113 misdemeanor arrests, and seized 85 weapons. Total value of all forfeitures, including cash and other assets, is at $15,050, Nolen said.
The GCSO BSRT deputies headed straight to the front lines of the border crisis to interdict a high volume of human smuggling operations in one of the smallest border counties hit hard by illegal border crossers. Kinney County was the first to declare a disaster, citing the border crisis on April 21, 2021. By July 5, 2022, it was the first to declare an invasion. Its sheriff, Brad Coe, who previously served as a Border Patrol agent for decades, told The Center Square that in his entire career he’d never experienced the crisis and chaos as he is now resulting from Biden administration policies.
He told The Center Square, “We’re experiencing a silent invasion of military age men.” Over 21,500 people, primarily single military age men, were caught on game cameras countywide after they’d illegally entered and evaded capture in 2022, he said. That’s seven times the county’s population. The Center Square expects to report on 2023 border data early next year.
Residents have testified to being terrorized by men coming from all over the world breaking into their homes, threatening their families and describing shootouts with law enforcement. They’ve witnessed a fraction of the more than 10 million foreign nationals, including over 1.9 million in Texas alone, who illegally entered the U.S. since January 2021, The Center Square first reported.
Sheriff Trochesset is encouraging others to assist with border interdiction efforts. The Texas-Mexico border “is obviously not secure with an estimated 5,000 illegals coming across daily and trespassing on ranchers’ properties, breaking into buildings and often times bringing with them drugs and firearms. This activity eventually and inevitably will impact all jurisdictions in this state, and we all need to work together to respond to this crisis and develop a solution,” he said.
Human smuggling interdiction and enforcement at the border “is very different than what Texas law enforcement officers usually encounter in their regular assigned jurisdictions,” Nolen said. GCSO is committed to border security efforts, he said, because they’re critical to “keeping our communities back here in Galveston County safe.” They help mitigate “the continuous threat of gang members, suspected terrorists, human smugglers, and dangerous drugs and firearms from infiltrating our communities.”
Kinney County spokesman Matt Benacci told The Center Square, “It’s impossible to overstate the impact” GCSO deputies and OLS have had on the county. Without them, “the ranches and highways here would be absolutely overrun. Local residents can see the extra manpower and know they’re not alone – they haven’t been abandoned.”
“What many may not realize,” he added, is every GCSO deputy “is a true volunteer. They want to be here, doing something that matters, and it shows.
“Early on, I asked some of the Galveston crew why they volunteered to come to Kinney County. They told me Texans statewide have come to help when tropical storms pummel the island year in and year out. Now, the entire state and country is in trouble – and they’re willing to drop everything and help a small county overrun on the front lines of an unprecedented border crisis and invasion.”