EDINBURG, Texas – Hidalgo County Judge Richard F. Cortez has a bunch of questions for Gov. Greg Abbott when he meets him later this week.

The questions revolve around border security and immigration, with Cortez concerned that recent moves by Abbott will lead to border communities having to pay for another layer of border security.

Abbott is hosting a law enforcement summit in Del Rio on Thursday. Abbott has chosen Del Rio because ranchers there have reported a lot of problems with migrants crossing their property. 

Last week, Abbott issued a disaster proclamation for 34 border counties, including Hidalgo County, saying he intended to use state resources to begin arresting undocumented migrants that cross into the United States.

In anticipation of the law enforcement summit, Cortez on Tuesday hosted a local summit with elected officials and community leaders to discuss the latest on immigration and its impact locally.

“I take seriously the concerns that some have regarding the surge of migrants crossing our borders so I wanted to get direct feedback from local stakeholders to prepare for the summit that Governor Abbott has called in Del Rio on Thursday,” Cortez said, in a statement following his local summit.

Cortez said his summit included updates on immigration from the U.S. Border Patrol, as well as representatives from the federal, state and local levels including nonprofits working with the migrants.

Based on the local discussions, Cortez said he will go to Del Rio armed with a number of questions for Governor Abbott. Among them:

  • What law enforcement agencies will be arresting these migrants?
  • What legal standing will these law enforcement agencies have in making arrests?
  • Where are those in custody going to be held?
  • Who will be paying the cost of holding these prisoners?
  • If state charges are filed, the defendants are entitled to a public defender if they cannot afford a lawyer. Who is going to pay for this defense?
  • Will local entities be reimbursed for costs typically associated with federal jurisdiction?
  • What are the healthcare implications in this time of COVID-19?
  • What resources will be available for testing and treatment of COVID-19 or other disease that may be found?

“I empathize with the concerns Governor Abbott has regarding this surge in migration,” Cortez said. “But I am responsible to the taxpayers of Hidalgo County and I want to be assured that we will not be incurring additional expense to perform the functions of the federal government.”

In proclaiming the border region of Texas a “disaster,” Abbott last week pinned most of the blame on President Biden.

“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. Texas continues to step up to confront the border crisis in the federal government’s absence, but more must 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. 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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