AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas Senate passed a $1.8 billion border security bill that will allow Republican Gov. Greg Abbott to implement a plan to curb illegal immigration from Mexico and install more than 700 miles of border barrier.
The Senate passed H.B. 9 by a vote of 23-8 Wednesday afternoon, after reaching an agreement on changes to the House version of the bill. The emergency supplemental bill is the largest-ever border security package of its kind to clear the state Legislature and will now head to the governor’s desk for signing.
“It is a historic, huge effort by the state of Texas,” said Ken Oliver, senior director of the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Right on Immigration initiative.
The $1.8 billion is in addition to the $1 billion that the Legislature approved this spring for border security operations over the next two years. The previous two-year budget had been for $800 million, making the emergency bill equivalent to normal funding for a four-year period.
Rep. Greg Bonnen, a Republican who represents a Houston suburb, introduced the bill as a way to fund Abbott’s proposals made in June. It unanimously passed the Senate Finance Committee this week and was supported by all three Democratic members.
More than half of the $1.8 billion will go toward the border wall and fencing. A Washington Examiner analysis of existing border wall projects revealed that just 150 miles of the 1,250 miles of land that Texas shares with Mexico have a substantive barrier, leaving the state on the hook for roughly 1,100 miles of fencing.
The state has identified 733 miles of border-front land where it can build, and the Texas National Guard will carry out the project. All of the land on which the state will build belongs to residents who agreed to let the state put up a barrier, which will allow Texas to avoid the lawsuits that had held up the Trump administration’s efforts as it tried to seize private land for construction.
At present, one engineer battalion is handling the construction of a temporary, 8-foot-tall barbed wire fence. The bill includes $301 million for an additional 1,800 National Guard soldiers, including 11 more battalions to install fencing that will eventually be replaced by a more solid barrier. Even with the reinforcements, Oliver called it a “herculean task.”
Builders are installing “no trespassing” signs in English and Spanish on the new fences, Oliver said. That notice will give state and law enforcement the ability to arrest illegal immigrants found trespassing. While the Border Patrol arrest illegal immigrants on federal charges, state and local forces cannot arrest someone on an immigration charge.
Those arrested will be held in county and state jails, for which lawmakers provided $273 million to cover the costs. The state is using the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s Briscoe Unit prison as a jail. The infusion of cash will allow it to expand jail space to two more state jails.
More than $32 million will go toward legal proceedings in county courts where illegal immigrants are tried for trespassing, and human smugglers are prosecuted. The state’s effort to prosecute illegal immigrants and smugglers is intended to deter illegal immigration, as the number of people being caught illegally immigrating over the past six months has reached 21-year highs.
An unspecified number of Department of Public Safety special operations troopers will be assigned to the border for one year, with $133 million in the bill. The DPS money also includes the purchase of six more boats and overtime pay for all personnel assigned to the border.
The governor is also crowdfunding donations and has raised $54 million to date.
Author: Anna Giaritelli
Source: Washington Examiner: Texas Senate passes $1.8 billion border security bill with funds for 700 miles of barriers