It was less than two weeks ago that a major gun-battle broke out at the border of Texas and Mexico near Laredo gangs forced citizens from their cars and then blocked the streets in Nuevo Laredo, and a bloodbath ensued.
Terrified residents in Laredo flooded the phone lines of the police department to notify law enforcement of gunfire and explosions.
According to Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo (Sigi) Gonzalez, this is not a shocking development, but a form of terrorism that is happening regularly on the United States/Mexico border.
Congressman Ted Poe hosted a Town Hall meeting in Kingwood last week to address the issues of border security and illegal immigration. He invited Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo (Sigi) Gonzalez as a special guest to speak about the many challenges facing border sheriffs today. Zapata County is just south of Laredo.
What is happening on the border is domestic terrorism, said Gonzalez. Youve got four and five-year-old kids who have to stay down on the floor for hours, scared because of the gunfights.
When this kind of violence erupts, the schools go on lockdown, said Gonzalez, and parents cannot get their children out of school.
The problem is far more serious than just the affect on frightened citizens, according to Gonzalez.
Osama Bin Laden can come across border and not get caught, he said. It is so porous that is how serious it is.
Gonzalez went on to describe some of the horrors that face residents and law enforcement officers near the Texas/Mexico border.
When you see these gunfights you would think it is Iraq or Afghanistan, he said. Drug cartel members are going to homes of border control agents, threatening them to stay away from the border; there have been kidnappings, murders...When you have bullets from a Mexican shootout hitting city hall like in El Paso, when you have kids in schools on lockdown you have a problem.
Poe told the assembly that he thinks the problem is not being addressed in the right order.
My own feeling is our policy may be flawed in that we think about catching folks once they cross, he said. We need to prevent that and stop them from coming across in the first place.
Gonzales is adamant about getting the word out about the intensity of the border problem, and he doesnt think most people are aware of the severity of the threat.
If I showed you photographs of what is happening on the border you would not believe it, he said. Im not here to scare you Im here to tell you the truth, the reality. As a border sheriff I will not give up and give into the thugs too many people have died.
Reactions to the Town Hall meeting were decidedly positive, with the majority of people attending fed up, and ready for change.
Bronwen Spindle drove all the way out to Kingwood from Sugar Land to attend the meeting.
We drove out here because we admire Congressman Poe, said Spindle. and because I think this illegal alien invasion is dangerous to this country and is bankrupting us. Americans are turned away from health care, but if you are illegal, the sky is the limit.
Spindle said she has a unique point-of-view because she immigrated here herself, from England.
I came here legally, she said. I dont care if someone is white, brown, pink or blue they need to come here legally.
Some attending were not entirely convinced. Russ James, of Kingwood, has been in the trucking business for more than 30 years, and says he is very familiar with what is going on at the border.
I think it was a good presentation, he said. It was mostly accurate, and in general what we have here is a cry for help but I think we have a great need for accurate information. Im not against the Arizona law, for example, but I think it was poorly written. I think it will lead to profiling.
Dan Huberty, Humble ISD school board member, and Republican candidate for the Texas House District 127 seat soon to be vacated by Joe Crabb, was impressed with the meeting.
I thought it was great, he said. Its interesting to get a perspective from someone down there as opposed to just what the media reports. As a state, we need to provide the border sheriffs with the resources and the money to combat this issue.
Poe has long been known as an advocate for tougher border security. Along with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), he recently requested the administration to grant requests from the governors of the border states for National Guard troops to be deployed to the U.S.-Mexico border.
Recently, Poe facilitated the process to secure six retired U.S. Army Humvees for Texas Border Sheriffs.
Sheriff Gonzales expressed his appreciation for Congressman Poe following the Town Hall.
He is one of the few on our side, he said. We are forever grateful to Poe.
Congressman Poe was a judge and prosecutor in Houston for 30 years; he now serves on the Subcommittee on Immigration and Border Security, he is a member of he House Committee on Foreign Affairs; and serves as an Executive Member of the Immigration Reform Caucus. For more information about Congressman Poe, visit http://poe.house.gov/.