AUSTIN – Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples testified on border security issues before the U.S. House Homeland Security Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 14.
“Texas farmers and ranchers along the U.S.-Mexico border are regularly becoming victims of intimidation, aggression and outright violence by armed trespassers who often have direct ties to Mexico’s drug cartels,” Staples testified, and cited these examples:
• On Feb. 18, two energy company employees assaulted and robbed in rural Webb County;
• On March 11, ranch foreman injured from shots fired by suspected drug cartel members in rural Webb County;
• On June 9, Texas Department of Public Safety officers and game wardens shot at by drug traffickers in rural Hidalgo County;
• On June 19, U.S. Border Patrol officers shot at by drug traffickers in an area that has seen repeated shootings aimed at U.S. law enforcement in Hidalgo County;
• On July 14, shots fired at water district workers in rural Hidalgo County; and
• On Sept. 27, shots fired killing at least one individual on Hidalgo County highway.
Staples also presented “Texas Border Security: A Strategic Military Assessment,” chronicling the impacts of Mexican drug cartels and transnational criminal organizations on Texas and its citizens. The 59-page report (not including attachments) dated Sept. 26 offers solutions to addressing cartels’ increasingly violent tactics.
Staples, in his cover letter, states, “This report is the culmination of many efforts that started with rural farmers and ranchers bringing pleas for a secure border to me.”
The publication suggests the need for more cooperation between federal and state agencies, increased federal funding and the adoption of military-style tactics.
DPS weighs in on cartel issue
Also on Oct. 14, the Texas Department of Public Safety disseminated a release stating that cartels have been recruiting Texas school children to be used in criminal activities such as drug, human, currency and weapon smuggling.
Parents should talk to their children and explain how these cartels seek to exploit Texas teenagers and the risks in dealing with these organizations, especially those parents who live along the Texas/Mexico border, the DPS suggests.
“The Mexican cartels value Texas teenagers for their ability to serve as expendable labor in many different roles and they have unlimited resources to recruit our children,” said DPS Director Steve McCraw.
Most burn bans still active
Long overdue rains resulted in the recent lifting of burn bans in some of Texas’ 254 counties.
However, a Texas Forest Service map dated Oct. 16 shows 230 counties where burn bans are still in effect.
More than 600 wildfires charring 39,602 acres were caused by debris burning, which is the number one cause of wildfires in the state according to the Texas Forest Service.
“The ongoing drought has devastated the state’s land and trees this year and aided in creating conditions that are ripe for wildfires. Since fire season began Nov. 15, 2010, almost 4 million acres have burned across the state,” the forest service reported.
Jobs Act bill fails to move
U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis on Oct. 7 said the national unemployment rate remained at 9.1 percent in September. Solis pointed to forecasts suggesting that the Obama administration-supported American Jobs Act bill, if enacted, would put nearly 2 million Americans back to work. But the bill failed to gain enough votes in the U.S. Senate to be debated on Oct. 11.
Texas employers who put Texans back to work now may take advantage of Texas Back to Work, a wage incentive program that provides Texas employers with up to $2,000 for each qualified, out-of-work Texan they hire. The goal is to hire first-time unemployment insurance claimants who previously earned less than $15 an hour.
The August unemployment rate in the Lone Star State was 8.5 percent, according to Texas Workforce Commission figures.
Language help at certain polls
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 requires counties with large enough minority populations to provide language assistance at voting polls.
Pursuant to that requirement, the U.S. Census Bureau on Oct. 12 released a list that says “state coverage Hispanic” and the following counties and languages: El Paso County, American Indian (Pueblo); Harris County, Asian (Chinese) (Vietnamese), and Maverick County, American Indian (Kickapoo).
Election Day is Tuesday, Nov. 8. Early voting starts Oct. 24.