In the face of a historic border crisis due to the intentional reduction of federal immigration law enforcement, legislation has finally been passed in Texas to help fill the gap and better secure America’s southern border. Gov. Greg Abbott signed the bill on Friday, Sept. 17—as the crisis at the border intensifies, with more than 10,000 migrants, mostly Haitian, crowded under a bridge near Del Rio.
With substantial bipartisan support, HB 9 allocates a hefty $1.8 billion to enable state agencies and border counties to increase deterrence, protection of private property and targeted prosecution of state crimes committed by unauthorized migrants.
The single largest chunk of the new funding, $750 million, is being dedicated to the construction of up to 730 miles of border wall, a security need previously identified and approved by both Democrats and Republicans in the United States Congress, including the current President, but abruptly and irresponsibly cancelled at the outset of his administration. This appropriation is on top of the $250 million in emergency Texas border wall funding already allocated by Governor Greg Abbott.
In her testimony before the legislators, Texas National Guard Adjutant General Tracy Norris explained that that over 100 landowners along the state’s unsecured international border with Mexico have asked for the wall to be built on their land.
Initially, temporary fencing will be built by 12 of the Guard’s engineer teams at a pace expected to exceed over one mile per day, up from the current few hundred feet per day being built by only one engineer team. Eventually, the temporary fencing will be replaced by a permanent barrier that is being designed and managed by the Texas Facilities Commission, in coordination with the Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety.
During floor debate over the measure, Senator Eddie Lucio, a Brownsville Democrat, responded to objections by some fellow Democrats by saying that “I have talked to many of my constituents in Cameron and Hidalgo County…and I can tell you the vast majority of those people want border security and want the wall, believe it or not. And some of us come up here fighting against it, we’re actually speaking against what our constituents want.” Lucio was among the Democrat lawmakers who supported the measure, along with Senator Chuy Hinojosa of McAllen.
In addition to the wall funding, the measure allocates several hundreds of millions of dollars each to enable both the Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety to place additional boots on the ground. Up to 2500 Texas National Guardsmen will be deployed to the border region, and in addition to building border wall they have been deputized to execute criminal trespassing arrests of unauthorized migrants. Single males who are illegally crossing the border and trespassing are being targeted for these enforcement efforts.
The historic Texas border security effort is rounded out by $170 million in funding for three migrant intake centers, $100 million to reimburse border counties for related expenses and additional funds for court administration and the Border Prosecution Unit.
None of the legislators or state officials testifying in support of these actions are under any illusion that it is enough to fully compensate for the reduction of effort by the federal government in meeting its obligation to secure the border.
Many of the legislators on both sides of the aisle, in fact, made a point of lamenting the necessity the state faces of having to incur in such massive expenditures. Col. Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told legislators that prior to the crisis that erupted this year, he was hoping to see the state be in a position to reduce its border security expenditures.
However, the data is clear that both Texas and the nation are being inundated by a simultaneous spike in the trafficking of both people and illicit drugs across the border. The current leadership of the federal government shows no signs of being willing or able to fulfill its obligation. Thanks to the courageous and creative efforts of state lawmakers, Texas can and will work to fill the gap and take its border back.