Dallas County leaders are arguing that a state immigration law would increase taxpayer costs by penalizing unlawful migration with jail time.
Senate Bill 11 would make “improper entry from a foreign nation” a Class A misdemeanor punishable by jail time. SB 11 passed in the Texas Senate and is now pending in House committee.
Commissioner Elba Garcia said the legislation is “unfair … [and] discriminatory” and will merely increase costs to taxpayers.
“It is already illegal to be in the state without authorization any way so really that extra law just punishes taxpayers all over the State of Texas,” she said. “It means raising taxes because they’re not paying for the law that they’re passing. And it’s not only unfair. It’s discriminatory.”
County officials say an estimated 293,000 people are living in Dallas County without proper immigration status, as reported by NBC 5 DFW.
“Over a quarter million people that fit this criteria for this crime would then be held up to a year in our jail,” said Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins during last week’s meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court.
However, state legislators have estimated that about 72,000 people would be charged annually. Still, Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price said the bill is “just unbelievable.”
“We only have 7,100 beds,” he said. On Tuesday, only 140 of those beds were available. This debate comes amid an ongoing crisis of the alleged overpopulation in the county jail, as covered by The Dallas Express.
Commissioner Andrew Sommerman said SB 11 could overwhelm Dallas’ criminal justice system and undermine law enforcement.
“Could it be that we wind up with folks who are here trying to get a job filling our jails and as a result, we do not put murders and rapists in our jail,” he said.
However, Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), who authored the legislation, has said the bill is necessary because “landowners, residents, and businesses from border regions … no longer feel safe on their land and they have witnessed firsthand the devastation and destruction as a result of federal abdication of border security.”
“Texas reached a record number of illegal immigrant apprehensions in fiscal year 2022, with over 1 million apprehensions in Texas Sectors,” he continued. “As a result of the federal government’s unwillingness to enforce federal immigration laws and secure our southern border, the State of Texas has stepped up and devoted time and resources to combat the unprecedented border crisis that the state is facing. “