Brooks County, southwest of Corpus Christi, may become the first county ever in Texas to file for bankruptcy.
But the problems facing the Brush Country county of 7000 people, which is largely made up of flat, arid prairie with a horizon line occasionally broken by the occasional Mesquite tree, are not due to the issues which have brought down other struggling counties across the country.
Unlike California Counties, Brooks did not pay exorbitant salaries and retirement benefits to unionized public employees. Unlike Detroit, Brooks County was not undone by the troubles of a major industry.
Brooks County is being brought to its knees by the cost of burying bodies.
For the last two decades, Brooks County has been at ground zero of the nation's immigration wars. The main Border Patrol checkpoint on U.S. 281 leading from the Rio Grande Valley to employment centers in Houston and San Antonio, is located in Falfurrias, the Brooks County seat.
In order to avoid the checkpoint, immigrant smugglers have routinely dumped their human cargo into the trackless wasteland south of Falfurrias, frequently telling them that Houston is 'just over that ridge' or 'just a days walk away.' Frequently without water and almost never in any condition to walk across the Brush Country in summer heat which often reaches 115 degrees, immigrants by the hundreds have died on ranchland, their bodies found by people like Chief Deputy Benny Martinez as they patrol the county.
"I lost a position, and then they are talking about another three percent decrease in the salary," Martinez tells 1200 WOAI news about the situation he finds himself in. His department is forced to do more and more to deal with the staggering load of illegal immigrants walking across his county and dying in remote ranchlands. Now, the county is being forced to cut the budget. He says the whole thing is devastating to morale.
"They're thinking, they're taking all this away from us, there must not be a whole lot of value in me."
Commissioners are going to keep trying to come up with ways to prevent the county's finances from getting any worse. The county judge says they are asking the federal government for help, considering that the feds constantly claim in court that the illegal immigration problem, which is driving Brooks County into financial trouble is a federal, not a local or state issue.
Brooks County has also been dealt a cruel blow by geology. While counties to the north, east, and west are seeing the windfall from the Eagle Ford Shale, Mother Nature chose not to place any shale oil in Brooks County.
Only dead immigrants.