A Dallas County Judge has spoken out and criticized a bill passed by Texas lawmakers that will make unlawful entry into the state from abroad a crime.
Judge Clay Jenkins appeared on Inside Texas Politics to attack SB 4, which is set to go into effect on February 6, 2024. He called the measure “politically popular, but logistically and financially … dumb,” per WFAA.
Jenkins claimed that jails would be at risk of running out of beds since the bill states that those arrested could be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if they had previously been convicted of a similar crime, which could result in “a minimum term of confinement of six months.”
“The head of [the Texas Department of Public Safety] estimates that there are 75,000 people who would be offenders under this law, that is, they’re here without papers and they’ve been here for less than two years,” said Jenkins. “That’s all the beds. We’re currently, across the state, at 72% bed capacity. In our urban areas, it’s much higher.”
Estimates from Jenkins put the number of county jail beds at roughly 98,000, with an additional 3,000 beds from Operation Lone Star, a program from the Texas government that aims to reduce the number of unlawful migrants entering the state.
“[We will be] stuck having to house them in a jail that’s nearly at capacity now, which means that when officers arrest someone for stealing something out of your garage, there may not be room for them,” he claimed, according to WFAA.
In addition to Jenkins voicing concerns about the amount of space in county jails, others have raised concerns that the bill could promote racial profiling.
Gilberto Hinojosa, the chair of the Texas Democratic Party, previously called the bill “anti-migrant, dangerous and unconstitutional.”
“This will not fix the real security issues along the southern border. This will not keep Texans safe. This will do nothing but rip families apart and overcrowd our prisons — which is what Texas Republicans do best,” Hinojosa said, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
However, a supporter of the measure, Rep. David Spiller (R-Jacksboro), countered that such a characterization was patently false.
“I want to make clear: This is not a round everybody up who’s here illegally and prosecute them. That is not what this law is about. It wasn’t before. It isn’t now,” Spiller said, according to CBS News Texas.
According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, agency encounters at the southern border with unlawful migrants hit an all-time high figure of 269,735 in September. The number of encounters dipped to 240,988 in October.