Rep. Pfluger, sheriffs talk unlawful immigration amid influx at southern border

Published: Oct. 2, 2023 at 8:14 PM CDT
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ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) - A congressman’s recent trip to the southern border and a narrowly averted government shutdown have sparked conversations about the local impact of unlawful immigration.

Rep. August Pfluger traveled to Eagle Pass last week as the southern U.S. border saw an influx of Venezuelan immigrants as they continue to flee an economic and political crisis in Venezuela.

At the same time, preliminary data obtained by CBS shows that unlawful crossings surpassed 200,000 in September. That’s a high for this year.

The congressman’s trip occurred amid what many predicted was an impending government shutdown, with the border being a point of contention in D.C.

While a bipartisan bill was passed to extend government funding until Nov. 17, time is ticking and the border appears to remain a hot topic in D.C. and across the nation.

“It’s putting a great burden on us, on our city, on our county [and] our state and it’s not going to get better,” said Mike Griffis, Ector County sheriff.

Although Midland-Odessa sits hundreds of miles from the border, local sheriffs and Pfluger say each town deals with the negative impacts of unlawful immigration.

“Nobody knows this better, unfortunately, than Odessa and Midland because we have received the brunt of the impact,” Pfluger said. “And so I went there to send a clear message to the White House to say we’re not going to continue doing what we’ve done.”

Midland and Ector counties both report drug trafficking and immigration-related human trafficking as local concerns. Griffis says his office has traced drugs to cartel activity.

Both also say these instances cost their local governments and taxes law enforcement.

“We’re currently housing 16 inmates with ICE holds on them at the cost of $104 a day,” said David Criner, Midland County sheriff. “So we’re housing some of those individuals that are awaiting trial and have committed crimes in Midland county.”

While Brewster County is much closer to the border, their sheriff, Ronny Dodson, says unlawful immigration is a bigger issue for midland-odessa.

He says Brewster County’s 100-mile stretch to the nearest highway from the border, plus border control presence, deters unlawful crossings.

“Our community is very, very seldom affected by this. Most of the migrants don’t even stop here,” Dodson said. “If they make it this far, they’ve made it and they’re going on to Fort Stockton or Midland-Odessa or some place else.”

Griffis and Pfluger both acknowledged the crisis many immigrants are fleeing but said a more organization is needed.

“A lot of them want to come over here for a better life,” Griffis said. “I can’t blame them for that, but again, we need to know who they are.”

Griffis, Pfluger and Criner all agreed the current border process is not working and expressed a need for change.