STUART, Fla. — Martin County Sheriff William Snyder announced Thursday that he will head to the southern border in an effort to curb what he said is close to a state of emergency in Martin County.
"The border has been coming to us, and now I am going to it," Snyder said.
Snyder said he accepted an invitation from Sheriff Mark Dannels of Arizona's Cochise County to tour the southern border, meet with law enforcement and to see the impacts of illegal immigration firsthand.
He'll leave on Feb. 12 and spend four days in Cochise County.
"I'll get a bird's eye view of how they're dealing with societal disruptions," Snyder said. "Let me be clear, I'm not going as a tourist. I'm not going to make a political statement. It's my belief that I may be able to direct resources here."
His announcement came on the heels of the third major drug arrest in the county in just over a month.
Region Martin County
Martin County Sheriff's Office seizes 10,000 fentanyl pills worth $300,000
In the latest bust, Snyder said deputies arrested two men, Jonathan Ramirez, 29, and Michael Whitehill, 22, who he said are mid-level drug dealers from the southern border. Deputies seized nearly 400 fentanyl pills from them.
On Dec. 28 deputies seized 10,000 fentanyl pills in the county's largest fentanyl load in history, and on Jan. 4 deputies seized nearly 1,400 grams of methamphetamine.
Snyder said the three drug hauls only had one thing in common.
"It's likely coming from our open border," Snyder said.
Snyder has consistently referred to the southern border as the main source of Martin County's drug flow.
During Thursday's news conference, he cited other issues in the county he attributed to illegal immigration, including a rise in undocumented drivers and his jail, which he says with 540 inmates is critically over capacity.
"Forty-five of those inmates are undocumented individuals," Snyder said. "I'm about to declare an emergency in my jail to commissioners."
Snyder also said in 2023, that 19 people fatally overdosed, and so far this year seven have already overdosed.
"The majority of those people who died in Martin County got drugs from 1,800 miles away," Snyder said.
"How do we know that?" WPTV reporter Kate Hussey asked.
"We have detailed intel from a task force that we're a part of, which includes U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and ICE," Snyder said.
Snyder also said in this latest arrest, deputies obtained text messages from the alleged seller of the narcotics which read, "This is my border price."
John Nelson of FamiliesRecover.org, an addiction recovery group, said he's pleased to hear Snyder is taking action.
"I mean, anything they can do to help curtail it from coming across the border," Nelson said.
Still, Nelson, who struggled with addiction himself for several years, and lost his wife to a heroin overdose, said he knows first hand the problem goes beyond law enforcement.
"My drug addiction started at about 14 years old," Nelson said. "If we're not educating people, if you're not getting to the core issues, and you're not dealing with trauma, that goes for me too."
Nelson said he encourages anyone who needs help or who knows a loved one who needs help to contact Familiesrecover.org.
"We will get them help. We will send someone to them," Nelson said.
Snyder said his trip is not funded by taxpayer dollars and said he will keep in touch with WPTV during the duration of his trip.