EDINBURG, Texas – Hidalgo County Judge Richard Cortez wishes Gov. Greg Abbott would spend as much time pushing to get land ports of entry fully re-opened as he does opining that border region is a humanitarian crisis.

On Tuesday, Abbott issued a disaster declaration for 34 border counties, arguing that a surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Rio Grande into Texas is a threat to public health and “a violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Cortez responded: “I appreciate Governor Abbott’s concern for the safety of all Texans and I acknowledge that we are seeing a greater number of immigrants crossing into Texas to either seek asylum, to work or for other purposes. Apparently, Governor Abbott has information that we don’t have. In speaking to local law enforcement, they have not reported levels of criminal activity that would require a disaster proclamation.”

Cortez went on to say: “I have repeatedly suggested to our federal government to address comprehensive immigration reform because our current laws need change to address what we want and what we don’t want. My greater concern is President Biden’s continued closure of our ports of entry that are having negative economic consequences on our community. Governor Abbott’s pressure against the Biden administration would be much more welcome in the form of calling for these ports of entry to be reopened so that the free flow of trade can begin to return to normal.”

Abbott declared the border region a “disaster” through a proclamation certifying that “the ongoing surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexico border poises an ongoing and imminent threat of widespread and sever damage, injury, and loss of life and property, including property damage, property crime, human trafficking, violent crime, threats to public health, and a violation of sovereignty and territorial integrity, in certain Texas contuse and for all state agencies affected by this disaster.”

The counties affected by the disaster declaration consist of Brewster, Brooks, Cameron, Crockett, Culberson, Dimmit, Duval, Edwards, El Paso, Goliad, Gonzales, Hidalgo, Hudspeth, Jeff Davis, Kenedy, Kinney, La Salle, Lavaca, Maverick, McMullen, Pecos, Presidio, Real, Reeves, Starr, Sutton, Terrell, Uvalde, Val Verde, Webb, Willacy, Zapata, and Zavala.

Abbott said the disaster declaration would allow “more resources and strategies” to combat an ongoing influx of unlawful immigrants. He said he is authorizing the use of all necessary and available state and local resources to protect landowners in certain counties from trespassers and the damage they cause to private property. 

Abbott said he was directing the Texas Department of Public Safety to enforce all federal and state criminal laws, including criminal trespassing, smuggling, and human trafficking. He said he was also directing the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to take all necessary steps to discontinue state licensure of any child care facility under a contract with the federal government that shelters or detains unlawful immigrants.

Abbott blamed the Biden Administration for the “humanitarian crisis” at the border.

“President Biden’s open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities,” Abbott said.

“Meanwhile, landowners along the border are seeing their property damaged and vandalized on a daily basis while the Biden Administration does nothing to protect them.”

Abbott said Texas continues have stepped up to “confront the border crisis in the federal government’s absence,” but argued more needs to be done.

“By declaring a state of disaster in these counties, Texas will have more resources and strategies at our disposal to protect landowners and enforce all federal and state laws to combat criminal activities stemming from the border crisis,” Abbott said.

“Working together with local law enforcement, the state will continue to take robust and meaningful action to keep our communities safe.”

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