While Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, flew to the border to observe the ongoing immigration crisis, he ended up with a crisis more personal and immediate before he could get there.
Shortly into his flight from Bergstrom Airport in Austin, King said the plane was cruising at approximately 23,000 feet when, suddenly, the window he was facing shattered.
“It was like somebody hit it with a hammer,” King said. “I jumped, the pilot jumped, we all jumped.”
King said luckily the window was double-paned - as they are on all aircraft - with only the outer layer giving way.
“I asked the pilot what the chances were of losing the window completely and he said ‘very small,’” King added.
The plane was a 1983 twin-engine Shrike Commander Aero model 690A seized from a drug dealer in 1988.
“It’s a good aircraft,” King said. “After it happened, we just turned around and went back to the airport to get another plane.”
King said it sounded worse than it was. That even in the worse-case scenario, had the cabin lost pressure, oxygen masks were available for such a contingency.
“It was funny, as soon as we landed the rest of the pilots came over and started looking at it because they had never seen anything like this before,” King said.
Following the incident, King continued on his journey to the border where he had an opportunity to tour the Rio Grande River from both boat and helicopter in the McAllen area.
“What I have learned is that we’re making a difference with the small surge we’ve done so far,” King said. “No question our guys down there from Texas Homeland Security, DPS know how to secure the border; they just need more resources.”
He said the legislature originally budgeted about $350 million in border security for the current two-year budget, up 55 percent from the previous budget.
“We deployed the DPS and Rangers in a “mini-surge” last month costing right at $1.2 million per week,” King added. “[Soon] the governor will deploy the National Guard and we’ve been trying to get the federal government to help pay for it, but they’re not going to.
“So, that’s going to cost us about $12 million a month so by the end of the year we will be pushing about $450 million.”
Money well spent, King said, adding that the cost should be paid by the feds and the other 49 states.
King said border officials have also apprehended more than 200,000 people since the beginning of the fiscal year Oct. 1.
“No one knows for sure, but the Director of Homeland Security told me that three to four times that many never get apprehended,” King added.
King said the drug cartels were making “lots of money” not just ferrying people across the border but, in doing so, overwhelm law enforcement to the extent that “gaps” were created to smuggle in illegal drugs.
“Even after we secure the border, those we catch coming across, we’re still obligate to turn them over to border patrol because that’s what the federal law requires,” King said. “From there, they are released with the instruction from border agents to report back two weeks later to court - what percentage do you think actually do that?”
He said from a human tragedy standpoint, interviews show where one-third of the girls are sexually assaulted on their journey here.
“Others are forced into prostitution,” he said. “Who knows how many people, including kids, die on that dangerous trip up to the border? The ‘coyotes’ just abandon the injured and sick, what type of people would we be if we didn’t intervene?”
King said he believes the National Guard will act as a deterrent and send a message to Central America and Mexico that it’s not as easy to get across into Texas anymore.
“That’s the message we’ve got to send - the one that the Obama Administration should be sending,” King said. “We’re going to be humane, but the most humane thing we can do is send them back on a plane to their families and their countries of origin.”