By Jim Forsyth
SAN ANTONIO (Reuters) - It's been said that what the world knows about the United States is what people see in Hollywood movies, and those perceptions could soon become reality in Texas.
Those who try to slip across the Rio Grande from Mexico into west Texas may find themselves arrested by newly sworn-in Hudspeth County Sheriff's Deputy and action film star Steven Seagal.
Seagal, currently starring in an A&E Network reality show detailing his experiences as a reserve deputy in New Orleans, contacted County Sheriff Arvin West about his interest in "patrolling the border", West said.
He was sworn in this week for the position in Hudspeth County, which runs along the Rio Grande east of El Paso, West added. Seagal, 59, could not be reached for comment.
"Mr. Seagal is not in this for the celebrity or publicity," West told Reuters. "He has a sincere passion for his country and he wants to do more to help. I think he will make a significant contribution to this office and to our community."
Seagal starred in big-budget films in the 1980s and early 1990s, earning a reputation as an action star in movies like "Above the Law" and "Under Siege."
In the last decade, he has appeared mainly in direct-to-DVD, low-budget films while working in law enforcement. His last role was as a corrupt Mexican drug lord in the Robert Rodriguez grindhouse flick "Machete."
After Seagal expressed interest in joining the Hudspeth County department, two members of the department traveled to Los Angeles to talk to the actor about his proposal and to make sure he was serious, said Rusty Fleming, a spokesman for the sheriff and one of the two who made the trip.
"We were very quick to find out that he was not doing this for publicity," Fleming said. "He wants to come down to the border and work and try to do his part."
Hudspeth County, population 3,400, is on the front lines of border issues ranging from illegal immigration to drug gangs. West once made headlines when he urged people who live in the county to buy a gun and "learn how to use it."
It was also in Hudspeth County that singer Willie Nelson was arrested on marijuana charges last fall. Two reality TV shows focusing on the border are being filmed in the county, Fleming said.
"He understands this issue that we have down here on the border," Fleming said of Seagal. "His help with his training and what he can help show our deputies and what he can show us here, I think he'll make a tremendous contribution."
West said he expected Seagal to report for duty in January and that the exact nature of his duties were still being worked out.
(Editing by Corrie MacLaggan and Cynthia Johnston)