A Texas Republican senator is putting out a bill that would make it a crime to cross the border without permission, allowing law officials to detain and punish border crossers anywhere in the state.
On Friday, the last day for state lawmakers to present any new legislation, Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, filed Senate Bill 2424.
Governor Dan Patrick’s Office
For a first violation, there may be a year in jail; for a second, there might be two years in state jail; and for convicted felons who cross the border illegally, there could be a life sentence, according to a news release from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s office.
“The Texas Senate’s dedication to securing our southern border is unwavering, and our commitment is exhibited by the $4 billion in our base budget to continue Operation Lone Star. In addition, Sen. Brian Birdwell has filed SB 2424 so the State of Texas is empowered to truly protect our border, as the Federal Government has completely abdicated its constitutional responsibility,” Patrick said in a statement.
The Legislative Border Safety Oversight Committee would be created under HB7, and its recommendations would serve to direct the state’s border security regulations. The 10-member committee would comprise the Lt. Governor, the House Speaker, and four representatives from each legislature chamber.
The committee would oversee a new Border Protection Unit, which would be created under HB20 by Representative Schaefer. A news release from Speaker Phelan’s office described the goal of the unit as “a mission-oriented, locally-based response to the state’s ongoing border security operations.”
According to the law, the Governor must appoint the head of the Border Protection Unit. The unit’s commander could hire law enforcement officers and “law-abiding civilians without a felony conviction” to work in it. These individuals would not be able to conduct arrests “unless trained and properly approved by the governor,” according to the bill’s text.
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The unit’s primary objective is to relieve the stress on Texas National Guard personnel, state troopers, and wildlife wardens stationed near the border so they can return to their communities of origin.
In a statement opposing the plan, the Texas House Democratic Caucus called it “misguided at best” and insisted it was against federal law.
Trey Martinez Fischer, the caucus chair, referred to the proposal as the “Show me Your Documents” measure and claimed it would lead to needless dissent in the Capitol.
“Past sessions make clear that extreme legislation like this is the most divisive issue we take up in the House. HB 20 is a tinderbox waiting to explode that will leave this Session in flames,” Fischer wrote, adding, “House Republicans have been warned.”
Those who attempt to enter Texas outside of an authorized port of entry would face state penalties under Bill 1600.