Sitting comfortably in my home in Navasota, it’s easy to distance myself somewhat from “the border crisis,” but after hearing border horror stories firsthand at the 32nd Annual Texas Crime Stoppers Conference at South Padre Island last week, “crisis” doesn’t do the situation justice. I came home with a heavy heart for the folks living in those border counties and not a day goes by now that I don’t think about what they’re enduring.
The conference was hosted by the Cameron County Crime Stoppers and was heavily attended by Crime Stoppers organizations from the border counties. Conference attendees came in all shapes, sizes and ethnicities, but as organiza tions we were there for the same reason – to find out how we can improve on assisting law enforcement in apprehending and arresting the bad actors.
Probably, some conference information was old news to the members of law enforcement in attendance, but for me, it was new, surprising and scary. Zapata County Sheriff Reymundo Del Bosque, Jr., was the featured speaker at two sessions. Tuesday, he presented on Synthetic Drug Investigations, for example, “bath salts” manufactured and sold in back rooms of vape shops, and Wednesday, his topic was Border Violence and Human Trafficking. Bosque didn’t sugar coat his presentations and made it clear that “it can and it will happen” in the rest of the state.
According to Bosque, our illegal immigration problem is not a priority for the Mexican government because their focus is on eliminating the cartels. And yet, the two are incestuously linked. The current open border, anti-wall policy has made for strange bedfellows because the cartels work together now. To them, people are a “product.” There’s plenty of “product” to go around, and the “product” is willing to pay anywhere from $3,000 to $9,000 to get into the United States.
Border Patrol agents, city police and county sheriffs like Bosque are up against well-equipped cartels which use Improvised Armored Fighting Vehicles, armored sport utility vehicles and explosive drones. They routinely use scout vehicles to deflect attention from the vehicles with passengers and the ensuing chases wreak havoc on property owners. Bosque thinks it’s only right to use asset forfeiture funds to repair their downed fences. One resident’s fence has been replaced seven times.
And then there’s human trafficking. According to Bosque, a victim’s destination, who she belongs to and her value is all found in a bracelet she wears. If she’s “lucky” enough to have rhinestones on her bracelet, she will be housed indoors; otherwise, it’s outdoors with no food or water. And if you think stash houses are easy to spot, guess again. They’ve been found in upper and middle class neighborhoods and sometimes are a family affair. Bosque described a case in which the trafficker’s two preteen daughters were tasked with keeping an eye on cell phones and iPads so the 14 young women couldn’t make contact with the outside world. Bosque explained it was from the daughters that his office learned about the bracelet identification system. He added that tips to Crime Stoppers have been valuable in shutting down stash houses.
Similar to terrorists, cartels use social media sites like Tok-tok, Facebook and Snapchat to recruit young people under the age of prosecution. A $500 per week job driving “product” is enticing to a 13-year old, and even in the United States, cartels recruit underaged youth for assassin teams.
After listening to Bosque's encounters with cartels and illegals and watching graphic videos, I’m grateful in a way I’ve never been before for law enforcement personnel working the border.
In his closing comments, Bosque was unapologetic when he said he performs “cell checks” in his own daughter’s room and he reminded parents in the crowd that they ARE the parent. With firmness he stated we must “secure the border, protect our children and the property we worked hard for.”
Connie Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and award-winning columnist. She writes feature news articles on a weekly basis and an opinion column as the mood strikes her.