Bill giving LE agencies more border enforcement capabilities passes Texas house
House Bill 4 would make entering the country illegally a misdemeanor and give state and local law enforcement the power to jail or deport violators
AUSTIN, Texas — The Texas House passed three border security bills on Wednesday and into Thursday, as part of the third special session.
House members went well into the morning Thursday discussing border security bills that would dedicate money to a border wall and give law enforcement officers border enforcement capabilities, among other things.
“Texas has every right to secure our border and protect ourselves,” said state Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, a sponsor of one of the bills. “As Texans, we have to protect Texas especially when the federal government will not do so.”
House Bill 4, by Spiller, creates a new state crime targeting many asylum-seekers and other immigrants by making it a Class B misdemeanor to enter the country illegally. It also empowers state and local police officers to deport people or put them in jail for up to six months. Immigration enforcement is the responsibility of the federal government.
“What is happening today is a violation not only of civil rights, but of human rights, of human dignity and of the dignity of life,” said state Rep. Josey Garcia, D-San Antonio.
The proceedings on HB 4 were delayed after a heated exchange between state Reps. Armando Walle, a Houston Democrat, and Cody Harris, a Palestine Republican. In an effort to delay the measure, House Democrats filed nearly four dozen amendments. In order to squash the delay, Harris filed a motion to cut off additional amendments to the bill, to which Walle reacted with expletive-laced confrontation of Harris, arguing that the House members should be allowed to present and debate all of the aspects of the bill, including any amendments.
“Y’all don’t understand that y’all don’t live in our (*expletive*) skin,” Walle said. “Y’all don’t understand the (*expletive*) that y’all hurt our community.”
After a two and half hour delay, the floor debates continued and lawmakers went into four in the morning, discussing the bill. It ultimately passed at 84-60. It now heads to the Texas Senate.
"(HB 4) is a positive step, but ultimately much more work is needed to secure our border against the hundreds of thousands of illegal crossings each month,” Texans for Strong Borders, a nonprofit conservative advocacy group, said in a statement.
Earlier in the day, the House also passed HB 6, which funnels $1.5 billion of state money to build a border wall. Texas and Mexico share about 1,254 miles of border. Texas has allocated roughly $10 billion in state dollars to border efforts including its military operation known as Operation Lone Star. It, too, heads to the Texas Senate.
In addition, the House passed Senate Bill 4, which significantly expands enforcement of the state’s criminal “human smuggling” laws, which already serve as tools for prosecutorial abuse against humanitarian workers by imposing a mandatory 10-year minimum in most cases. The bill heads to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
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