A local state of disaster was declared on Monday by Wharton County Commissioners in the ongoing surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexico border.
At the request of Wharton County Sheriff Shannon Srubar, the declaration would possibly reimburse land owners for damages caused during the pursuit of unlawful individuals.
“Pursuant to recent talks in Austin, there may soon be state funds available that our land owners can seek reimbursement for the cost of repairing their fences and such, but only if their home county has declared a state of disaster.” Wharton County Judge Phillip Spenrath told the court.
Srubar further explained his reasoning behind the request to enact this disaster.
“Judge, you mentioned about the length; I’ll be honest, I don’t see an end in sight.”Wharton County Sheriff Shannon Srubar
“We constantly hear the term ‘border crisis’,” he said. “As this crisis is very serious on the [Texas-Mexico] border and immediate areas, it’s just as much of a problem right here in Wharton County.
“The sheriff’s office has seen a major increase in contact with illegal immigrants in the past several months.”
Prior to January 1, 2021, the sheriff’s office experienced only five to six pursuits per year. Srubar reported that now, the department is reporting five to six per month, and some months even more than that average.
When describing the amount of time the department has been dealing with this issue, Srubar used the word, “overwhelming.”
Outside of the active calls, he said his deputies have had to transport individuals as far as Corpus Christi when border control is not available.
“During these ‘bailouts’, it’s not just a few patrol deputies, it’s investigators, it’s admin… all hands on deck. We are all leaving our responsibilities to deal with this.
“The last thing I want is stealing vehicles, assaulting our people; We’re going to do everything we can to protect our community and catch every one that decided to run from us.”
Srubar went on to explain that if or when funding becomes available, declaring this disaster would assist property owners with getting repairs reimbursed, as well as, his department with expenses incurred.
“I recently spoke to a disaster coordinator with the Texas Department of Emergency Management, and she expressed by having the declaration in place, it will help paint a picture for FEMA on its reporting,” he said. “The declaration allows us to start reporting damages immediately, both, for the agency and for land owners.”
Commissioners approved the action pursuant to Texas Government Code 418. 108 to Declare a Local State of Disaster in Wharton County in the ongoing surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexico border for one year.
The court will revisit before the one year mark to either end or extend this declaration.
Srubar said to Spenrath, “Judge, you mentioned about the length; I’ll be honest, I don’t see an end in sight.”