In a contentious session that lasted through the night, the Texas state House of Representatives passed three bills on Thursday morning aimed at strengthening border security. The bills, proposed by Republican lawmakers, have sparked intense debate within the state’s political arena.
The first bill, known as House Bill 3, allocates over $1 billion towards the construction of border barriers along the Texas-Mexico border. The second bill, House Bill 2, increases sentences for human trafficking, a crime that has been on the rise in the border region. Finally, House Bill 4, the most controversial of the three, would grant local law enforcement the power to arrest and deport illegal migrants.
The discussion on the bills began on Wednesday and continued into the early hours of Thursday morning, with heated exchanges between lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. State Representative Cody Harris of Palestine made a motion to cease further amendments and end the debate, which sparked strong opposition from Democratic lawmakers.
State Representative Armando Lucio Walle of Houston expressed his frustration with the swift decision, stating, “It hurts us to our f—ing core. And you don’t understand that. You don’t live in our skin. And that’s what pisses me off.”
Despite the backlash, the bill ultimately passed with a vote of 84-60, with Republican lawmakers arguing that it was a necessary step in addressing illegal immigration in the state.
State Representative David Spille from Fort Worth defended the bill, stating, “It is a humane, logical and efficient approach. There is nothing unfair about ordering someone back from where they came if they arrived here illegally.”
The bill aims to give Texas officers the authority to handle illegal immigration directly, challenging federal court rulings that have given jurisdiction over the border to the federal government. The legislation will now move to the state Senate, where Republicans hold a commanding majority and are likely to pass the bills.
The passage of these bills comes as the Biden administration announced new numbers for border encounters in September, making it the highest monthly figure and putting FY 23 on track to break records for yearly encounters. The administration has faced criticism for its handling of the border crisis, with many calling for stronger action to secure the border.
In response, the administration recently defended its opposition to border walls and announced plans to waive federal regulations to allow for construction in South Texas, citing an “acute and immediate” need. However, Republican lawmakers in Texas have argued that stronger measures are needed to address the ongoing challenges at the border.
The fate of the bills will now be determined by the state Senate, where Republican support remains strong. Meanwhile, the debate over border security and immigration continues to be a contentious issue in Texas and the nation as a whole.