Texas Dem Voted To Cut Law Enforcement Jobs Amid Concerns of Cartel Violence

'It is a major reduction of safety in the area,' local mayor said of Dan Sanchez's decision

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April 22, 2022

As local officials warned of "spillover" cartel violence from Mexico, a Texas Democrat cut law enforcement positions in the same border county he is now running to represent in Congress.

As a Cameron County commissioner in 2011, Democrat Dan Sanchez voted to remove two constable positions from his local community. Constables are licensed law enforcement officers in Texas who have "authority to use all lawful means" to "preserve the peace" within their county. In some rural areas, such as those in Sanchez's county, constables are the primary source of law enforcement services.

Sanchez's move sparked intense backlash from other local officials, who accused the Democrat of "taking away community policing" amid increasing concerns of cartel violence. Cameron is Texas's southernmost county—as a result, Mexican cartel members have historically lived in the area, often bringing narcotics and weapons with them. Then-local mayor Steve Brewer argued that Sanchez's vote would impede law enforcement's ability to mitigate the subsequent "spillover violence" seen in some Texas border towns. "It is a major reduction of safety in the area," Brewer said.

Roughly a decade later, Sanchez is running for Congress in Texas's 34th Congressional District, which former congressman Filemon Vela (D.) vacated in March. The Democrat's campaign comes as illegal immigration skyrockets under President Joe Biden. Senior Department of Homeland Security officials expect migrant apprehensions to surpass 2.3 million this year, a substantial increase over the 1.6 million seen in 2021, which was a record. 

The trend has helped drive Hispanic voters away from Biden and could sink Democrats' chances to retain Vela's district in a June special election. According to an April Quinnipiac poll, just 26 percent of Hispanic voters approve of the president's job performance. Fifty-one percent of Hispanics in Texas, meanwhile, want a stronger border security presence, while only 13 percent want border security measures to decrease, a February WPA Intelligence poll shows.

Sanchez voted to take away constable positions just two months after he and other commissioners approved a property tax increase. Sanchez told the Valley Morning Star in September 2011 that the move was necessary because the county's budget was "as lean as it could be without eliminating positions." Still, Sanchez went on to eliminate the two constable spots shortly thereafter—Brewer said the decision was "really, really tough to sell" given the recent tax increase.

Sanchez told the Washington Free Beacon he is "a strong supporter of law enforcement and our U.S. Border Patrol." He did not answer questions on his decision to take away law enforcement positions in his county.

Sanchez, who launched his candidacy earlier this month, is considered the "most formidable Democrat running in the special election." Democrats have struggled to attract candidates for the race, given that Rep. Vicente Gonzalez already won the party's nomination to fill the seat in November but declined to run in the special. The special election's winner will only serve the remainder of Vela's term, which expires in January.

In the November general election, Gonzalez will square off against Republican nominee Mayra Flores, who is also running in the June special. Born in Mexico, Flores works as a respiratory care practitioner and is a strong critic of Biden's border policies, which she says "abandon the rule of law and jeopardize our national security."

Update Friday 10:00 am — This piece was updated to include comment from Dan Sanchez.