() — Human- and drug-smuggling pursuits are rampant along the southern U.S. border, plaguing small communities and increasingly getting deadly.
Local sheriff departments are on the front lines trying to stop the smugglers in their tracks, but there are times when they can’t stop them all, and the pursuit ends in tragedy.
In Ozona, Texas, this week, a grandmother and her granddaughter were killed when a smuggler crashed into their vehicle.
Residents in these communities say they are fed up.
“It’s totally out of control and dangerous,” said Dennis Leff, retired law enforcement officer and Fort Clark resident.
People who have spent the majority of their lives in the area say they are now living in fear.
“I’m very careful, when I cross the roads, I check both ways even if I got a green light, just to make sure,” Leff said.
Ray Milton, retired preacher and Brackettville resident, calls it a nightmare.
“All night long, and day after day,” Milton said. “You don’t get any sleep. It’s a nightmare.”
A pursuit ended at the front door of Kinney County Judge John Paul Schuster this week, where he says undocumented individuals bailed out right at his house.
“She slowed down and they all jumped out and ran into us,” Schuster said.
The smuggling suspect was a 24-year-old woman from Oklahoma.
“In my heart, I want to think they have good intent and will be productive citizens,” Schuster said. “But I’m afraid that I’m wrong.”
Pursuits are happening every day.
“Well, if they wouldn’t run, we wouldn’t chase them.” said Kinney County Sheriff Brad Coe.
The sheriff’s department was involved in 39 smuggling pursuits in February.
Meanwhile, the Texas Department of Public Safety saw 29 pursuits along the southern border last month— which is more than triple the number from the previous year.
Pursuits orchestrated by the cartel are also getting farther into the interior of the United States.
In Ozona, Texas, a human smuggler from Louisiana transporting 11 undocumented individuals in a truck, sped through a red light while fleeing police.
The victims were Maria Tambunga and her granddaughter Emilia. Emilia was a second-grade student at Ozona Elementary.
Two immigrants were also killed.
Sheriff Coe said he makes it a mission to stop the smugglers at the border, so they aren’t able to make it to places like Ozona, and beyond, but with a lack of resources, they can’t catch them all.
“I didn’t do my due diligence in getting things stopped here,” Coe said.
Massive boulders, valued at $65,000, now line the perimeter of the local schools in Brackettville to protect students from potential pursuits.
In neighboring Uvalde County, Mayor Don McLaughlin said the schools are going into lockdown on a near-daily basis as they experience pursuits every day as well.