McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Texas Senate on Tuesday afternoon passed a controversial bill to spend $1.54 billion more for the state to build more border wall to prevent illegal immigration from Mexico.
“We can no longer risk it. The bad guys are really really bad,” state Sen. Charles Perry, R-Lubbock, said Tuesday just moments before he voted for SB6 in a third and final vote on the measure by the full Senate.
SB6 passed the Republican-led Texas Senate by a vote of 17 to 11 mostly on party lines, and with opposition from South Texas border senators.
The chamber’s vote comes after the Texas House also voted in controversial legislation last week that will bolster Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star — the state’s border security initiative.
“We got to start thinking differently. The resolution will be painful and it’s not where I want to be at this time. But the leadership from many, many decades has brought us to this point,” Perry told the Senate floor.
State Sen. Judith Zaffirini, D-Laredo, voiced strong opposition to the bill just moments before she voted against it.
“I cannot support Senate Bill 6, as it represents an outdated and ineffective approach to border security that does not align with the complex challenges of the 21st Century,” Zaffirini told the chamber.
Zaffirini said the funds would be better used on more technology to help law enforcement root out cartels and others who illegally cross the Rio Grande. She says a wall is not enough, nor effective.
“The border issues we face are complex and multi-faceted. Physical barriers alone will not stop the challenges we face,” she said.
“Most of us who live on the border don’t want militarization and we scoff at physical walls,” she said. “Virtual or smart technology is the better alternative.”
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, who serves on the Senate Border Security Committee and vice chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, also voted against the measure. But in a speech before his colleagues Tuesday afternoon, he acknowledged rising rates of illegal immigration along the Texas border and the need for better border security.
“Yes, it’s a federal responsibility, but we as a state, cannot just look the other way and throw our hands up and ignore what’s happening along the border,” Hinojosa said. “We have to protect our borders. … A nation that doesn’t define its border, protect its border, will cease to be a nation. I truly believe that.”
His gripe, however, is spending so much state money, he said.
“It’s costing $30 to $35 million per mile,” he said. “For me, I want more accountability. How’s the money being spent?”
In January, the Texas Facilities Commission announced it could not award any more border wall contracts in the state unless Texas lawmakers approve more funding.
About 30 miles of state-funded border wall has, so far, been built or is under construction along the Texas-Mexico border.
Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick issued a statement saying, “As the Biden administration fans the flames of the crisis on our southern border, Texas continues to step into the breach to keep our state safe.”
SB6 — which also increases law enforcement at the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County outside Houston — now heads to the Texas House for consideration during this third Special Session called by Abbott.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at SSanchez@BorderReport.com.