Congressman Ted Poe (Dist. 2) encouraged the public to openly discuss their issues of concern during a town hall meeting.

The event, which commenced with the pledge of allegiance to the United States and Texas Flag, occurred on July 31 at the Brookside Funeral Home in Champions.

We want Representative Poe to know that he is representing us very well and we are showing our support to him personally. We need him to know, from our perspective, that we appreciate what hes doing for us. Merrilyn Riggen said.

Government spending, the war in Iraq and deep water drilling are a few topics that were briefly covered. However, the primary focus remained on border security.

Sigifredo Gonzalez, the sheriff of Zapata County, spoke candidly about the gruesome acts that local law enforcement have observed near the border.

In 2005, Gonzalez met with 15 other sheriffs, who worked along the border, in order to share methods in combating the border violence. During the discussion, the sheriffs came to the conclusion that more intense crimes, involving the Mexican drug cartels, were reaching American soil.

However, Gonzalez says, their request for assistance from the federal level were being unheard. After many common tales of kidnappings, extortion and beheadings, involving American citizens, the group decided to take matters into their own hands.

We got together in Laredo and formed the Texas Border Sheriff's Coalition, Gonzalez said. It was formed from our frustration for the federal governments inability to protect the border.

Gonzalez described the crimes, by the drug cartels, as more outrageous. In addition to beheadings, criminals are now extracting out their victims beating heart, according to Gonzalez.

He compared members of the drug cartels to terrorists and said the brutal acts, along the border, coincide with the FBIs definition of domestic terrorism.

Many in the community said they knew that violent offenses were occurring at the border but not to such an extent.

I think most of us knew the facts but the thing that struck home the most to me was the fact that were doing so little about it at a federal level, Tom Yarbrough said. You leave it in the hands of these fine gentleman at the local level for a while but theyre fighting a military that exists as competent as ours is, but on the other side of the fence. Its just scary.

Poe says, in order to ensure the safety of Americans, greater protective measures need to be taken. He says the Mexican drug cartels are extremely dangerous and its essential to send the National Guard to the border.

The drug cartels in Mexico are very violent. Theyre all fighting over turf to come into the United States, Poe said. They are much more violent than what we have seen in the past with the Columbian cartels and its because Mexico has so much water. They come in on both sides.

Some said it was imperative to attend the town hall meeting because it allowed an open forum, for members of the community, to share their opinion.

I think people that didnt come needed to come so they could hear whats truly going on, Judy Bragg said. I know the federal government sees it from one angle and the police see it from another angle but the police on the border are right there and thats who we need to hear from. Not after its been filtered through several layers.