The Texas Senate reconvened Thursday night during the fourth special session and passed multiple bills relating to Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security priority.
Senate Bill 3 would set aside $1.54 billion to create and manage a wall along the Texas-Mexico border.
This bill would also provide $40 million to the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to help support the cost of overtime hours for state troopers.
In addition to using these funds to pay overtime costs, DPS would be able to provide an “increased law enforcement presence” in the Colony Ridge housing development, per Community Impact.
Colony Ridge, located near Houston, has come under scrutiny in recent months due to concerns that it houses a large number of unlawful migrants and attracts drug cartel activity, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) filed a similar bill in the House, saying, “The Biden Administration’s open-border policies have created a humanitarian and public safety crisis at our southern border.”
“While the federal government fails to keep drug cartels, human traffickers, convicted criminals and dangerous drugs like fentanyl out of our country, Texas will continue to step up to ensure the safety of our communities,” she added, per Community Impact.
The second bill, Senate Bill 4, would make it a state crime to unlawfully enter Texas and allow state law enforcement officers to apprehend suspected unlawful migrants.
A previous version of the bill would have allowed the officers to escort the suspected unlawful migrants back through a port of entry, but constitutional concerns led to that right remaining with a judge.
Luis Figueroa, a former general counsel for a state senator, said lawmakers were smart to remove the removal portion of the bill, but it is likely still unconstitutional and could be challenged in court if passed.
“I do think all these versions have all been unconstitutional, but I do think the removal provisions really put it over the top,” he said, per Texas Public Radio.
Others, such as Rep. David Spiller (R-Jacksboro), expressed support for a similar House bill passed during the last special session.
“Texans must protect Texas — especially when the Biden administration fails and refuses to do so,” he said, as previously reported by The Dallas Express.
Although many Texas officials have sharply criticized the federal government’s handling of border security, the Biden administration has argued that its policies have been effective.
In a statement released in June, the Department of Homeland Security stated, “As a result of planning and execution — which combined stiffer consequences for unlawful entry with a historic expansion of lawful pathways and processes — unlawful entries between ports of entry along the Southwest Border have decreased by more than 70 percent since May 11. … The Administration’s plan is working as intended.”
Nonetheless, Texas lawmakers saw fit to address the crisis at the border at the state level.
Spiller said the bill addresses concerns brought forth by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick that the previous bill was a “Texas-sized catch-and-release bill.”
The new bill, according to Spiller, would require that the apprehended migrants be fingerprinted and photographed before they are transported back to a port of entry.
“We don’t want a terrorist to get away, we thought that we had sufficiently provided for that in the previous bill, but you know we have strengthened that,” said Spiller, per CBS News.
During Thursday’s session, the Senate also passed two bills relating to Abbott’s priority of creating an education savings account. Those bills can be read about here.