County officials discussed Monday the possibility of assisting the U.S. Border Patrol in caring for an unusually high number of detainees currently being held by the agency in South Texas.
At this week’s County Commissioners meeting, Kleberg County Judge Rudy Madrid said the Kleberg County Sheriff’s Office received a phone call from the U.S. Border Patrol office in Kingsville regarding a “pretty urgent request.”
“(Border Patrol) told (the sheriff’s office) they’re having an issue right now with illegal aliens that are coming across; they’ve got too many of them,” Madrid said. “I know in particular, one of the concerns is that they’ve got too many females. They have like, almost 20 females there right now and they’re having an issue on feeding them and bathing them, to my understanding.”
Madrid said he spoke to Kleberg County Sheriff Richard Kirkpatrick about the possibility of setting up a workshop to put together a “formal proposal” to help with what the border patrol is asking for.
“The sheriff and I both agreed that this is something that we can’t just stop the forces and start allowing illegal immigrants to come into our jail and utilize our tax payers’ money to accommodate them,” Madrid said. “I’ve asked that we put together a formal meeting with their representation to see how we can help them without taxing our taxpayers and, more importantly, see if the federal government’s willing to pay for this.”
Sheriff Kirkpatrick said he received the call from “senior level border patrol officials” who are trying to find a solution on the matter.
“The Border Patrol is not trying to make their problem our problem, but the reality is, looking at it from a humanitarian aspect, you’ve got people in there,” Kirkpatrick said. “You’ve got people that are literally being fed a burrito with absolutely no kitchen facilities whatsoever. They have nothing. Border Patrol was never equipped to handle that kind of magnitude of influx of people, because they were not designed to be kept in long-term situations.
“They were literally a stopping point and then they would send these people back south to be processed and then ultimately deported. So, today, you have people that are being held here, meaning here at the Border Patrol station, for up to 19 and 20 days at a time.”
Kirkpatrick said this backlog of people is what is causing the other issues to occur.
“More importantly, these people have not bathed in over, you know, up to the time limit of 20 days,” Kirkpatrick said. “So they’re basically just saying, ‘please, help us do something.’ And I talked to the officials and told them, I said all of that sounds like an easy fix, but it’s not because it’s very complicated in terms of health issues and health screenings. Bringing those individuals into our jail, subjecting our workers to that... who ultimately will try to pay for the toothbrushes, deodorant supplies or consumables? That will ultimately end up affecting those people, and ultimately affecting us as well.”
Kirkpatrick said he explained to the Border Patrol officials that if Kleberg County did provide assistance, both sides would need to be clear about who would fund the initiative.
“It’s not fair to us on top of anything else to assume that cost and again, it’s just a compounding problem and I sympathize with the situation,” Kirkpatrick said. “But ultimately we’re going, ‘well, who’s going to pay for it?’ And that is a tough, tough spot to be in. But ultimately, that’s where we stand.”
Pct. 1 County Commissioner David Rosse said if the county chose to take action, the county would need to proceed cautiously.
“We cannot afford to be a benevolent organization,” Rosse said. “If we were to do anything without a contract and somebody footing the bill, then we’re doing a disservice to the City of Kingsville, Kenedy County and any other (entity) that we have contracts with to house their people,” Rosse said.
Madrid also said that the Border Patrol is not set up to be a “refugee camp” and when he looks at the issue, there’s a lot to consider financially.
“You’re double taxing our citizens because our citizens already pay federal taxes,” Madrid said. “And the federal government should be taking care of that.”
Madrid said he would speak to District 34 U.S. Rep. Filemon Vela, Kirkpatrick and other executive leadership to see how the county could work with Border Patrol without using taxpayers’ money.
“I sympathize with the Border Patrol, and I’ll definitely take a stand to help them, but through the correct channels to accomplish this,” Madrid said.
“There would have to be a lot of questions answered before I’ll agree to it,” Rosse said. “But, I’m not against it.”
Officials at the U.S. Border Patrol station in Kingsville were contacted Wednesday by phone, but declined to discuss the issue.