Members of the Dallas County Commissioners Court recently alleged that a new bill to create a state offense for unlawful entry into the country would be racist and an undue burden on taxpayers.
At issue was a new border security proposal being considered in the ongoing special session. Authored by Sen. Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury), the bill would create a state-level criminal offense for “improper entry from a foreign nation.”
As approved by the Senate, the proposal would make unlawful migration a Class A misdemeanor for the first violation and then a state jail felony for any subsequent violations. Currently, the legislation is being considered by the House.
Sen. Birdwell explained that 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. “
However, the Dallas County commissioners denounced the bill as racist and claimed it would be more punitive to Texas taxpayers than migrants who violate the law to enter Texas.
“Over a quarter million people that fit this criteria for this crime would then be held up to a year in our jail,” County Judge Clay Jenkins said during the commissioners court meeting on Tuesday.
The Dallas County jail is consistently near capacity levels, as reported by The Dallas Express. Therefore, any significant increase in incarcerations would require the county to contract with other jails to facilitate the load.
“That Senate bill is just unbelievable,” Commissioner John Wiley Price said. “We only have 7,100 beds.”
Similarly, Commissioner Elba Garcia added, “It is already illegal to be in the state without authorization anyway, so really that extra law just punishes taxpayers all over the State of Texas. … It’s not only unfair. It’s discriminatory.”
“They are making all the lower entities part of this crazy, crazy, unfundable, racist law,” she alleged.
In the bill’s fiscal note, Jerry McGinty, the director of the Legislative Budget Board, explained, “The impact on state correctional populations or on the demand for state correctional resources cannot be determined due to a lack of data to estimate the prevalence of conduct outlined in the bill’s provisions that would be subject to criminal penalties.
“While the fiscal impact to units of local government cannot be determined, creating a new criminal offense may result in additional demands on local prosecutorial and correctional resources due to a possible increase in the number of individuals placed under supervision in the community or sentenced to a term of confinement,” he concluded.
However, the cost of unlawful migration on the Texas taxpayer is estimated to be in the billions, according to a recent report by the Huffines Liberty Foundation, as reported by The Dallas Express. Since 2013, Texas has spent more than $52.5 billion on educating students living in Texas unlawfully and hundreds of millions on medical costs for unlawful migrants each year.
“Abandoning the U.S.-Mexico border costs Texas taxpayers billions of dollars per year in expenditures by the Texas and federal governments,” the report concluded. “Ending these expenditures must start with reestablishing and securing the national border.”