As our historic border crisis continues, teeming thousands of migrants are camped under a bridge in Del Rio, Texas, waiting to be processed and transported to various locations throughout the country. It is within this perilous context that a new Texas law signed Friday will help better secure America’s southern border and fill the gap due to the federal government’s intentional reduction of immigration law enforcement.
BREAKING: Our drone is back over the international bridge in Del Rio, TX. Per source, the number of migrants waiting to be processed has now swelled to approx 8,200. It was 4,000 yesterday AM. Doubled in one day. BP overwhelmed, & I’m told situation is “out of control” @FoxNews pic.twitter.com/ThJJJ0JWCT
— Bill Melugin (@BillFOXLA) September 16, 2021
With substantial bipartisan support, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law HB 9, which allocates a hefty $1.8 billion to enable state agencies and border counties to deter illegal crossings, protect private property, and increase prosecution of state crimes committed by unauthorized migrants.
The single largest chunk of the new funding, $750 million, is being dedicated to the construction of up to 730 miles of border wall, a security need previously identified and approved by both Democrats and Republicans in the U.S. Congress, including the current president, but abruptly and irresponsibly canceled at the outset of his administration. This appropriation is on top of the $250 million in emergency Texas border wall funding already allocated by Abbott.
In testimony before state legislators, Texas National Guard Adjutant General Tracy Norris explained that more than 100 landowners along the state’s unsecured international border with Mexico have asked for the wall to be built on their land. Initially, temporary fencing will be built by 12 of the Guard’s engineer teams at a pace expected to exceed more than one mile per day, up from the current few hundred feet per day being built by only one engineer team. Eventually, the temporary fencing will be replaced by a permanent barrier.
During floor debate over the measure, state Sen. Eddie Lucio, a Brownsville Democrat, responded to objections by some fellow Democrats by saying, “I have talked to many of my constituents in Cameron and Hidalgo County … and I can tell you the vast majority of those people want border security and want the wall, believe it or not. And some of us come up here fighting against it, we’re actually speaking against what our constituents want.”
Lucio was among several Democrat lawmakers who supported the measure, including Sen. Chuy Hinojosa of McAllen, Sen. Royce West from Dallas, and Sen. John Whitmire of Houston.
Filling in for a Useless Federal Government
In addition to the wall funding, the measure allocates several hundred million dollars to enable both the Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety to place additional boots on the ground. Up to 2,500 Texas National Guardsmen will be deployed to the border region and, in addition to building the border wall, they have been deputized to execute criminal trespassing arrests of unauthorized migrants. Single males who are illegally crossing the border and trespassing are being targeted for these enforcement efforts.
The historic Texas border security effort is rounded out by $170 million in funding for three migrant intake centers, $100 million to reimburse border counties for related expenses, and additional funds for court administration and the Border Prosecution Unit.
None of the legislators or state officials testifying in support of these actions are under any illusion that it is enough to fully compensate for the reduction of effort by the federal government in meeting its obligation to secure the border.
Many of the legislators on both sides of the aisle also lamented that the state has to incur such massive expenditures. Col. Steve McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, told legislators that prior to the crisis that erupted this year, he was hoping to see the state be in a position to reduce its border security expenditures.
However, the data is clear that both Texas and the nation are being inundated by a spike in the trafficking of both people and illicit drugs across the border. Current federal leadership shows no signs of being willing or able to fulfill its obligation. Thanks to Abbott and the courageous and creative efforts of state lawmakers, Texas can and will work to fill the gap and take its border back.