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Border Sheriff Likens Influx Of Illegal Immigrants To Hurricane Katrina

SOUTH TEXAS (KRLD) -- Officials say that nearly a thousand illegal immigrants a day are crossing into Texas from Mexico, an anomaly that is now being compared to Hurricane Katrina.

"How do you prepare for that?" says Don Ray, the Executive Director of the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition. "You can't have an influx of people like that without having an impact; I think we saw that after Katrina. It's relocation services that are really taking place. In the case of Katrina, most of them were United States citizens or people that were here lawfully, and now you have people that aren't here lawfully."

Ray says that with that sort of influx of people crossing illegally into Texas from various parts of Mexico and Central America, there are public health concerns. "You have that many people in one place -- you have the potential for illnesses that could spread that could have an impact on the local community."

More: Flood Of Immigrants At US Border Causing Issues

It's a concern that's shared in Nogales, Arizona, where most of the illegal immigrants captured in Texas are being shipped to temporary housing and processing facilities.

"When you put 1,000 or 1,500 people in just some little facility and they just came from another country, you never know what they're bringing into the country," says Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Illegal Immigrants Bring Health Concerns

Recently the consul of Honduras to Arizona said that illegal immigrants have been complaining about getting sick from the food they've been receiving in detention at the facilities in Nogales.

"They're complaining yeah, but why don't they compare whats going on here to the country they came from," says Sheriff Arpaio. "That's why they're coming here because of the bad conditions in other countries like Honduras and Guatemala."

Officials with the National Border Patrol Union say conditions at the detention facilities are improving.

"I talked to the local union president there yesterday... and he told me that the conditions are getting better now that there are coast guard and FEMA doctors in place and they are monitoring everyone's health," says Shawn Moran, the Vice President of the National Border Patrol Council. "To be honest, he said the biggest complaint the detainees have is that they don't like their flour tortillas -- they prefer corn tortillas with their food."

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security started flying illegal immigrants to Arizona from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas last month after the number of immigrants (which include more than 48,000 children) overwhelmed the Border Patrol and law enforcement agencies.

MORE: PhD Candidate Describes His Illegal Journey Into U.S.

After being released in Arizona, immigrant families were told to report to an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office near where they were traveling within 15 days. But Sheriff Arpaio doesn't think that's happening.

"In our jails, we found that about 2,000 inmates in the past several months are in jail for several state crimes, but they're here illegally and we found out that over and over again they're being released to ICE and they keep coming back," says Arpaio. "So that tells you either they're being led out the back door or they're being deported and they're still coming across the border. So that's sad when you have so many illegal aliens that committed crimes, that you have turned over and yet what happens to them, they just commit other crimes and come back to jail."

The facilities in Nogales are being used by Federal authorities as a sort of gateway station, where young children can be checked out medically and get vaccinations. Afterwards, they will be sent to facilities setup throughout the country, including in San Antonio, Texas.

You can follow Joe Gomez on Twitter at @JoeGomezKRLD.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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