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Border Sheriffs Concerned About DPS Presence

A State Senate committee examining border security is meeting this week in Austin.

At a public hearing held yesterday, sheriffs from from four border counties told senators they're concerned that the presence of state troopers with the Department of Public Safety is jeopardizing their communities' trust in law enforcement.

As Lorne Matalon reports, Democratic State Senator José Rodríguez of El Paso says he's heard those same concerns from the communities of Marfa and Van Horn.

Rodriguez has also criticized some of the language speakers at yesterday's hearing used to describe the borderlands in general.

The El Paso Times reports that one speaker at the hearing named Heidi Theiss, a city councilor for the Houston suburb of League City, described the US-Mexico border as a more-than-figurative "war zone." Theiss is part of a group that occasionally patrols private ranches in South Texas.

From the Times:

"I have seen military movements by groups that are in uniform," Theiss said, later adding, "Military incursions are happening on a regular basis."

Rodriguez, who is not a member of the committee, asked to be allowed to speak.

"I want to take strong exception to the language that you use," Rodriguez said.

He said expressions such as "war zone" tell the world beyond the border that it's unsafe when border cities such as El Paso actually are safer than other parts of Texas.

"Although there are localized 'hot spots' along parts of the U.S.-Mexico border, this is a vast and diverse region with millions of residents and, in no way, can it be characterized as a 'war zone,'" Rodriguez said in a statement issued later.
Travis Bubenik is All Things Considered Host and Big Bend Reporter at Marfa Public Radio.