Posted: Jul 7, 2014 6:45 PM
Updated: Jul 7, 2014 7:41 PM
SAN JUAN - Police officials with the city of San Juan want lawmakers to see firsthand how the immigration surge is impacting their budget.
Sgt. Rolando Garcia said the massive numbers of illegal immigrants from Central America trekking through the city are draining the department's budget.
Garcia said overtime funds meant to keep drugs, weapons and other criminal activity off the streets are being used to deal with the illegal-immigrant problem.
"With the increase of stash houses that we're seeing, with the increase of these special investigations that we are having to do, our overtime is getting affected. That overtime comes from line items that are meant for patrol functions, to keep the public safe, to keep the community safe," Garcia said.
Garcia said his department responds to some six calls of suspected stash houses each week.
Garcia said they expected an increase in those types of cases and allocated funds from the department's overtime budget. The problem, he said, is that the money ran dry in just four months.
"Our special investigations unit was issued $15,000 to work these stashes houses. We got issued in October (and) by February we (had) already gone through that money," Garcia said.
"We do get state funding through a grant, however that funding is a process and it's not always a guarantee that we're going to get that," he said.
Garcia said his department responds to the stash-house calls even though they're not required by law.
"We don't enforce immigration law. However, we are receiving calls for that. We have an obligation to answer those calls ... especially when they're telling us that people are being abused, people are being held against their will," he said.
Garcia said the attention is being focused on the detention centers.
"We've had many politicians come down to the Valley to see firsthand what's going on. However, they didn't meet with local law enforcement," he said.
"They did not see what was being affected here, as far as the cities in particular and what we're having to do ... how we're having to really bring on additional manpower and burn through that overtime in order to make sure that the city's public safety is maintained," Garcia said.
Garcia said he understands the need for more Border Patrol agents and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers in the region. Still, he said more attention needs to be placed on local police departments.