Terrell County Sheriff says they've seen major increase in illegal immigrants

SANDERSON -- It’s hard to believe anyone would walk hundreds of miles across the harsh terrain of southwest Texas, but the Terrell County Sheriff’s Office reports that they detained five times as many illegal immigrants in 2018 as they have in years past.

“They’ll end up here in Sanderson when they’re dog tired or just give up,” Sheriff Keith Hughes said. “We get a lot of calls from people who are seeing strangers walking through town. And it’s a small town, so we know everybody here.”

Hughes said on average, his department detains around 20 illegal immigrants per year, but in 2018, he said they had approximately 100.

He explained that as you head west toward El Paso, New Mexico and Arizona, there are more border patrol checkpoints and agents, as well as U.S. troops. The same occurs as you head east to Del Rio, Laredo and the coast.

As a result, he said Terrell County represents the path of least resistance to the immigrants, and they are funneled here.

Hughes said that fortunately, the increase in immigrants hasn’t led to an increase in crime.

“Here locally they haven’t really caused us any issues,” Hughes said. “I’m not saying that couldn’t happen. You never know who’s coming through town.”

He added that almost all the people they detain are young men looking for jobs, and that they aren’t Mexican citizens.

“Probably 90 percent of the illegal aliens that we’ve had here have been from Guatemala,” Hughes said. “There’s been some from El Salvador. Very very few from Mexico.”

To handle the high numbers, Hughes and his four deputies have increased patrols, and work long overtime hours.

Still, some residents in Sanderson have illegal immigrants knocking at their door.

CBS 7 spoke with Manuel Calzada, who said a group of men from Guatemala came to his home asking if he could drive them to Houston. Although Calzada would not do that, he allowed them to use his phone and gave them food and drinks.

“The coyote had left them somewhere out there,” Calzada said. “The coyote told them Houston was this way (pointing west) and that this here was New Mexico. I told them no this is Texas. Houston is that way” (points east).

The men at Calzada’s house were eventually detained. According to the sheriff, illegals who are taken into border patrol custody are transported to Del Rio for further processing, and then deported.