(The Center Square) – Goliad County Judge Mike Bennett is still fighting for freedom in Texas six generations after his ancestor helped defeat the Mexican Army and win independence at the Battle of San Jacinto.
Over 186 years later, Texas law enforcement officers are battling transnational criminal cartels emboldened by the Mexican government who have operational control of the Texas-Mexico border and in communities throughout Texas and the U.S. With record levels of crime and human and drug trafficking coming into Goliad County since January 2020, Bennett was among the first to declare an invasion in Texas, on July 5, 2022.
Since then, judges and commissioners representing 33 counties have declared an invasion or expressed support for Texas declaring one. The Republican Party of Texas has declared an invasion and the Texas Public Policy Foundation also expressed support for doing so.
Bennett, who’ll be 69 in January, came out of retirement after he was asked to run for judge by Goliad County Sheriff Roy Boyd. He ran for office in 2018 and was sworn in in January 2019. He’s running for reelection on Nov. 8.
Boyd, who’s also defending Texas seven generations after his forefathers did, created an Operation Lone Star task force to help thwart cartel criminal activity. He told The Center Square the county was going bankrupt until Bennett turned everything around.
Bennett says he never set out to be a judge. Born and raised in Houston Heights, he first worked undercover with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in an organized crime unit that no longer exists.
“I’ve seen the worst of the worst,” he said.
While undercover, he purchased a child for two $20 crack cocaine rocks and then arrested the perpetrator, he told The Center Square. “I saw the entire evolution of crack. Initially it was freebase, then they were making it in a lab, then in a microwave.”
Now cartels are lacing drugs with fentanyl and trafficking them into the U.S. Since last March, Texas law enforcement officers working through Operation Lone Star have confiscated enough fentanyl to kill everyone in the United States, OLS officials said.
Bennett would later go on to run a successful business before he retired. Becoming a judge, he said, was “an opportunity to give back, to serve our country.”
He said the difference between his time in law enforcement decades earlier and now is there “are far more illegals than there ever were, the Biden administration isn’t enforcing the law, and Harris County’s sanctuary policies are enabling and worsening cartel activity.”
As a result, he said, “We are losing our country. We are losing Texas. Then what do you have left? Nothing. You’re living in New York.”
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) November 7, 2022
It was important to declare an invasion “to bring awareness to others about what’s happening. Declarations enable counties to acquire tools and financial resources,” which the small county of Goliad needed, he said.
Declaring an invasion was also important for national security, he added. “Illegal aliens are walking in across the border with backpacks. What are they bringing in? We don’t know. We can’t leave the borders unchecked.”
Prior to moving to Goliad, Bennett said he lived in Montgomery County for 34 years – a county founded by his “grandfather six times up,” Joseph Bennett. “If I wasn’t doing this,” he said of Joseph Bennett, “he’d be mad.”
Arriving in Texas in 1834, Joseph Bennett served as justice of the peace in a precinct that’s now in Montgomery County. With life and liberty at stake in 1836, he joined the Texas Army and headed to San Antonio only to learn the Alamo fell. He and his troops then joined Gen. Sam Houston and as a lieutenant colonel, he led the Second Regiment of Texas Volunteers. Holding the left flank in the Battle of San Jacinto, they helped defeat the Mexican Army in 18 minutes. Bennett would later be commissioned by Houston as a colonel to lead a mounted expedition of the newly formed Texas Rangers to protect the frontier.
He’d also represent the new county he founded, Montgomery County, in the Texas House of Representatives from 1838 to 1840. An early resident of the Lake Creek Settlement, Bennett signed a petition to create it in November 1837. He was one of its first five commissioners, approved by Houston on Dec. 14, 1837, according to county records.
Montgomery County, which some argue has mistakenly been referred to as the most conservative county in Texas, has not declared an invasion despite repeated calls by its citizens to do so at commissioner’s court meetings.
Bennett said he’s “very disappointed by county commissioners and judges that are unwilling to stand up” and declare an invasion or express support for him and others who have. His ancestors and Texans who fought for independence “gave at their own detriment to help the future generations,” he said.
“Why aren’t other judges coming to our aid?” he asked. He’s encouraging them to put their constituents over their political aspirations, saying, “You have to do the right thing at the right time. You can’t worry how it’s going to affect your career. The wellbeing of your county, of your residents is more important than your political career.”