Terrorist Threat to Texas Borders
Sheriff A. D’Wayne Jernigan
Val Verde County, Texas
Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition
Written Testimony on "Federal Strategies to End Border Violence" before the
Senate Judiciary Committee; Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and
Citizenship; and Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology, and Homeland Security
(March 1, 2006)
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittees, it is an honor and a privilege to
be invited to appear before you to discuss strategies to combat Border Violence
along the United States border and the Republic of Mexico.
On April 18th, 2005, Sheriff Sigi Gonzales sent out letters to the 16 Texas
Sheriff’s whose counties border the Republic of Mexico. The letter invited us to
a meeting to discuss unique problems that we face along the border. This was
done out of frustration in what we felt was the inadequacy of our federal
government to protect our border in preventing a potential terrorist from
entering our country. We felt that as citizens of this great country, our almost
2,000 miles of border was very porous, that many people whose intentions were
unknown were coming into our country. If their intentions were to commit acts
similar to or worse than what happened on September 11, 2001, then very little
was being done to stop them. All of us expressed the same frustration since we
had mentioned this many times to federal and state legislators. We felt that
perhaps speaking as one voice we would be heard. We realize that we are a
bi-partisan multi ethnic coalition of Law Enforcement professionals. The crisis
that we face on our border is not a racial issue, or even one of politics. This
crisis is a red white and blue national security crisis. . .
News for Public Officials Newsletter
On May 4th, 2005, we met in Laredo, Texas. As a result we formed the Texas
Border Sheriff’s Coalition. The first and foremost priority of our coalition is
protecting all residents of this country against a terrorist act without regard
to race, sex, or ethnicity. We continue to believe that many persons have
entered our country with intentions of harming us. We are sincere when we tell
you that we are not blaming the agents of the United States Border Patrol but,
rather, we criticize the policies that they have been shackled with.
I want to make you aware that the Law Enforcement experience of the member
sheriffs of this coalition total almost 460 years including 101 years of
experience as sheriffs. The oldest serving sheriff of this coalition is El Paso
County Sheriff Samaniego with 22 years. I have attached the list of member
sheriffs of the coalition with their years of experience and have marked it as
Attachment #1. I have served more than 29 of the 42 years of my Law Enforcement
career on the Texas/Mexico border. We have seen the border become more violent
and criminally active than at any point in our careers. Our officers rarely
encounter the socio-economic illegal alien of the past, but routinely encounter
criminal illegal aliens.
I have been asked to briefly relate to you some of the problems that we have
encountered along the border, specifically the violence along the border and
incursions, among other matters. Most of the sheriffs that have encountered
these problems are present to answer any questions you may have as they relate
to their counties.
The areas of Val Verde and Maverick Counties, specifically, continue to see many
persons from countries other that Mexico entering the country and being let
loose in our counties. I and Sheriff Tomas Herrera have been very concerned with
these persons since it is not known how many potential special interest aliens
were being released into our great country with what we term as a “notice to
disappear”. We did not know what diseases, if any, these persons may have had.
These persons, when released, would trek into town through day care centers and
schools. After we complained of this practice, Border Patrol, changed their
policy and began to transport them to bus stations. The most damaging part of
the “catch and release policy” was the debilitating effect on agent moral. These
illegal immigrants who were apprehended and then released would photograph
themselves and send the pictures back to their respective countries to show that
they had made it to America. I have attached one such photograph and marked it
as Attachment #2. The photograph shows them holding their “permission” papers.
All of us are concerned that the border with Mexico is being used as the open
door to this country. Most of the illegal immigrants from countries of special
interest that are apprehended are apprehended along the southwest border. I have
attached these lists and have marked them as Attachment #3.
Through intelligence information we have also learned that several murders in
Laredo, Webb County, Texas, have been orchestrated by members of drug cartels
operating in both countries. These drug cartel enforcers cross the Rio Grande
River, commit their murders in the United States, then head back to Mexico,
again, via the Rio Grande River. We have all seen in the media the reports of
the murders in Nuevo Laredo, 24 so far in the first 36 days of 2006. These
murders are connected to organizations in both Mexico and the United States. In
February, a Task Force in Laredo Texas confiscated Improvised Explosive Devices
as well as items used to make explosive devices. Border Patrol agents and deputy
sheriffs have been shot at from Mexico on a routine basis. Just last month a
sniper in Mexico shot at agents that were working along the banks of the river
in the area of the cities of Rio Bravo/El Cenizo. This continued, sporadically,
for three days. Agents reported seeing several individuals wearing military
style uniforms on a hill on the Mexican side, one of them was using what was
believed to be a high powered rifle with scope.
The Rio Grande Valley, Cameron, Hidalgo, and Starr Counties, have continuous
problems with pseudo-cops coming from Mexico to extort and kidnap citizens in
these counties. This area is the fastest growing area in the nation. They have
seen their share of terrorist activity as it relates to the migration of many
members of ruthless gangs that come into this country for reasons other than
legitimate employment. Sometime last year, a woman was taken off an airplane at
the McAllen, Texas, airport. She had come in from Mexico, through the river, as
her clothes were still wet, and had a passport from Africa. She was from a
special interest country and had come in to Mexico using a passport from a
friendly country to avoid detection. Who knows what her intentions were. Thanks
to an officer at the airport she was taken off the plane.
During this same time period, a high-ranking member of the Mara Salvatrucha, or
MS-13, was apprehended in the Brooks County area, also in south Texas. He had
entered the country illegally. This MS-13 member is believed to have been
responsible for the killing of close to 30 persons, or more, in a bus explosion
in his native country. It is my understanding that he had a lengthy criminal
record in the United States. This person, as many others, find it very easy to
come into our country through a very porous, wide-open, and unprotected border.
Twenty seven members of the MS-13 were apprehended entering the United States in
the Del Rio area of operations during the month of January, 2006.
We have received information that the drug trafficking organizations immediately
across our border are planning on killing as many police officers as possible on
the United States side. This is being planned for the purpose of attempting to
“scare us” away from the border. The recent activities of the drug trafficking
organization operating in the Hudspeth, El Paso County areas have included
threats against the families of Deputy Sheriff’s. In one incident subjects made
threats to the wife of a Hudspeth County Sheriff’s Sergeant at their home. The
drug trafficking organizations have the money, equipment, and stamina to carry
out their threats. They are determined to protect their illicit trade. It is my
opinion that these drug trafficking organizations may form an alliance with
Islamo Fascist terrorist organizations. The Department of Homeland Security
recently issued Officer Alerts warning their agents of such potential threats.
We, the local officers, learned about the warning through the news media.
The cartels operating in Mexico and the United States have demonstrated that the
weapons they posses can and will be used in protecting their caches. I have
attached photographs showing some of the weapons that these cartels possess. The
photos have been marked as Attachment #4. In Val Verde County a fragmentation
hand grenade was discovered on one of the trails near the Rio Grande where drugs
are frequently smuggled into the United States.
Local, state, and federal officers have found many items along the banks of the
Rio Grande River that indicate possible ties to terrorist organizations or
members of military units of Mexico. Currency, clothing, are common finds.
Recently, a jacket with patches was found in Jim Hogg County, Texas, by agents
of U. S. Border Patrol. The patches on the jacket show an Arabic military badge
with one depicting an airplane flying over a building and heading towards a
tower, and another showing an image of a lion’s head with wings and a parachute
emanating from the animal (lion). It is believed from an undisclosed document
that Department of Homeland Security translators concluded that the patches read
“defense center”, “minister of defense”, or “defense headquarters”. The bottom
of one patch read “martyr”, “way to eternal life” or “way to immortality”.
On January 28th, 2006, USBP Chief David Aguilar was asked by a reporter from
KGNS television station in Laredo, Texas, what the outcome of the investigation
of the jacket was. Chief Aguilar responded that the patches were not from Al
Qaeda but from countries in which Al Qaeda was known to operate. He also stated
that the investigation was turned over to the proper authorities who had already
concluded their investigation. He knew nothing further.
On February 2nd of this year, deputies in Zavala County discovered an 18” duffle
bag approximately 8 miles North of Zapata by the highway right of way. This
duffel bag had “Armada de Mexico” embroidered on the bag. Inside the bag were
several items that are commonly used to maintain higher levels of physical
exertion. Inside the bag, a bus ticket with an origin of Veracruz, Mexico was
found. I have attached photographs of the duffle bag and marked it as Attachment
Employees of our offices have also seen incursions into this country of persons
dressed in battle dress uniforms (BDUs), carrying what officers believe to be
automatic weapons, very clean cut, and in very good physical condition. On March
3rd, 2005, several officers assigned to do surveillance by the Rio Grande River
by the Zapata/Webb County line observed approximately 20-25 subjects dressed as
indicated above. The subjects were walking on a gravel road, coming from
riverbank, and marching in a cadence. The deputy observed these individuals
through his borrowed night vision goggles. These individuals were carrying large
duffle bags and walking two abreast. They were each armed with assault rifles.
In the town site of Zapata, residents report subjects getting off boats wearing
BDUs, backpacks, and carrying weapons. The residents describe them as soldiers.
In Val Verde County, two illegal aliens were apprehended during a burglary near
the Port of Entry. One of the aliens fled on foot and was apprehended by
Deputies and Agents of the Border Patrol. The alien who was apprehended inside
the residence was later identified as a career criminal with a twenty four page
rap sheet. His criminal career included offenses in Florida and Texas. His
clothing was still wet from his illegal entry that night. For over a year,
groups of male subjects illegally crossed the river into the United States and
burglarized remote ranch homes. These subjects took items from the homes that
they burglarized, and would abandon the property at the next home that they
burglarized. The only items that they routinely kept were firearms. During one
burglary the subjects brought electric hair clippers with them and cut their
hair in a distinctive pattern. When theses subjects would encounter law
enforcement they conducted sophisticated escape and evasion tactics to break
contact. In one incident the subjects traveled twenty miles a day on foot across
harsh landscape. The last subject apprehended in that group had traveled over
eighty miles on foot before his arrest. The subjects were always physically fit.
It is my opinion that these subjects were trained for escape and evasion.
The Texas Border Sheriff’s Coalition is very concerned about the unique problems
along our border. The United States Border Patrol is doing the best that they
can with the resources they have been provided. Immediate help is needed for
them and for the protection of our country. We have implemented Operation
Linebacker, a second line of defense in the protection of our country. The
problems along the border are federal problems. Our governor, the Honorable Rick
Perry, did not wait for a peace officer to get killed along the border to take
action. He, just as we, is very much concerned. He has appropriated $6 million
for us to start the operation. Just last month he announced an additional $3.8
million that he will grant our coalition. This much needed assistance provided
by Governor Perry has already produced measurable results, but this assistance
is only a stopgap measure. More help is necessary if we are to see an acceptable
level of security exist on the border. The problems along the border will
continue unless our federal government does something about it soon. Must we
wait until an officer gets killed or until another terrorist act occurs?
I have addressed many of the enforcement issues facing the border today in my
written testimony, but another crisis faces us. The Judicial system on the
border is strained to failure. In Val Verde County, the annual budget for jury
trials will be exhausted in March, only half way through the fiscal year. An
examination of the caseload of the United States District Court, Western
District, demonstrates this crisis irrefutably. I have attached a report that
demonstrates the ten year record of civil filings within the Western District of
Texas. It is marked as Attachment 6. The number of filings of civil cases across
the District has remained fairly level with only minor increases consistent with
population growth. If you examine the criminal filings, Attachment 7, for the
same period an alarming trend is evident. The two District Courts on the border
have seen dramatic caseload increases with little or no population increase.
Attachment 8 shows the caseload of the two United States Magistrates in Del Rio.
As you can see each of their caseloads equals the caseload of the other
Magistrates in the Western District combined. The other District Courts in the
Western District have seen small increases in their caseloads. What is not
reflected in these statistics is the number of criminal subjects who are
apprehended with commercial quantities of drugs, but who fall under the quantity
threshold arbitrarily established by the United States Attorney’s office. These
subjects who have been apprehended by authorities are released without
Remember that only a percentage of all drug and alien traffickers are
apprehended, and then, a portion of those apprehended are released without
prosecution due to budgetary constraints. The criminals grow more educated by
the system each time we handle them. We must restore Justice to the Border by
immediately providing additional District Judges, Magistrates and Prosecuting
Attorneys, as well as economic subsidies to effected State District Courts and
Prosecuting Attorneys who have become incapacitated by the increasing crime on
I am convinced that by funding additional Deputy Sheriff’s on the border, our
nation will accomplish a cost effective, and immediate solution to the
burgeoning scourge of violence creeping North into our nation. Along most of the
border, it is a Deputy Sheriff who receives the first call of suspicious
activity and encounters subjects who may be crossing the border only for a new
and better life in the North, or who may have far more sinister intentions. No
matter how much more efficient we are made by the utilization of emerging
technology, it is still necessary that a trained and experienced officer be
available to respond to the identified threat.
I want to express my most sincere appreciation for allowing us the opportunity
to appear before you and thank you for the work you do for our country, the
United States of America.
Want more articles like this?
News for Public Officials Newsletter
- It's Free!