McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Three Republican-sponsored bills related to border security initiatives are advancing in the Texas House of Representatives.
All three bills have been referred to the State Affairs Committee, including one by a South Texas committee member that advanced on Thursday afternoon that would allow Texas to enforce federal immigration laws with Congress’ approval.
HB 209 proposes creating a “border security enhancement fund” — a special fund in the state’s treasury that is outside the general revenue fund for reimbursing border security-related expenses.
This could include the use of Texas DPS and National Guard troops that are lining the Texas-Mexico border under Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Operation Lone Star border security initiative.
The bill was filed in November by state Rep. Bryan Slaton, R-Greenville.
If passed by the Texas Legislature and signed by Abbott as currently proposed, the measure would also authorize studies on border security projects, and grant “the power of eminent domain.”
It would also allow gifts, grants and donations made to the state from businesses, private donors, and “by other states or through crowdfunding” to go into the enhancement fund to be used for border security initiatives.
The State of Texas currently crowdsources and accepts donations for its building of a state-funded border wall, as well as for border transportation to transport asylum-seekers on buses to other cities like New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C.
The state has received $55.4 million in donations for its border wall fund, and $412,843 for its transportation fund as of Feb. 27, according to the governor’s office.
The Texas Facilities Commission has so far authorized nearly $1 billion in total contracts to build state-funded border wall segments throughout the southern part of the state.
This includes the current building of 1.5 miles in Los Indios, Texas, on the Gulf Coast; and a 1.7-mile segment built in 2022 near the town of La Grulla in rural Starr County. The commission also awarded a $224 million contract awarded to the builder of a controversial private border wall for his company to construct 9 miles in Webb and Zapata counties near Laredo.
But during recent meetings, the state agency has said it cannot award any more contracts until the Legislature appropriates more funds for the wall.
According to the bill, monies in this enhancement fund could only be used for:
- Border infrastructure, like the wall.
- Preventing human trafficking and illegal entry into the United States via Texas.
- Preventing contraband, like narcotics.
- And in pursuit of “terrorists” — which is what Abbott has deemed Mexican drug cartels as being.
The bill currently includes language that would grant the State of Texas th power of “eminent domain” to acquire land, easements, right-of-way or right of use relating to border security initiatives.
Currently, the Legislature is not allowed to acquire borderlands through eminent domain due to a rider added to border security-related bills that were passed during its last session.
This bill also includes language that orders the state-built border wall “to be named the ‘President Donald J. Trump Wall.'”
An interstate border compact
Two bills would allow the state to “coordinate, develop, and execute an interstate compact for border security among interested states.”
HB 2396 was proposed by state Rep. Ryan Guillen, a Republican from Rio Grande City in South Texas. The measure on Thursday advanced to the State Affairs Committee, of which Guillen is a member.
State Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, propose a similar measure, HB 82, in November. It advanced to the State Affairs Committee in late February.
Such a compact would require congressional approval, and in effect allow the governor of Texas to enforce federal immigration laws.
Conservative-led states, like Florida, already are pairing with Texas to transport asylum-seekers who are released by the Department of Homeland Security.
Florida spent over a million dollars to fly 32 migrants via chartered flights to the remote Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard in September.
Arizona also is chartering air travel and buses to move migrants to other areas.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at Ssanchez@borderreport.com