AUSTIN (Nexstar) — A Texas Republican senator is proposing a bill that would create a new crime for those who cross the border illegally, authorizing law enforcement to arrest and prosecute anyone who crosses the border, and can do so anywhere in the state.
Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, filed Senate Bill 2424 on Friday, the deadline for state lawmakers to introduce any new legislation.
According to a news release from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick’s office, the penalties would be up to one year in jail for the first offense, two years in state jail for a second offense, and up to life in prison for convicted felons who cross the border illegally.
“The Texas Senate’s dedication to securing our southern border is unwavering, and our commitment is exhibited by the $4 billion in our base budget to continue Operation Lone Star. In addition, Sen. Brian Birdwell has filed SB 2424 so the State of Texas is empowered to truly protect our border, as the Federal Government has completely abdicated its constitutional responsibility,” Patrick said in a statement.
On Friday, Speaker of the Texas House Dade Phelan announced more priorities of the chamber for this legislative session.
The priorities included four house bills to enhance border security:
- House Bills 7 and 800 by Representative Ryan Guillen
- House Bill 20 by Representative Matt Schaefer
- House Bill 1600 by Representative Cole Hefner
HB7 would establish the Legislative Border Safety Oversight Committee to provide recommendations guiding the state’s border safety policies. The 10 member committee would be consist of four lawmakers from each chamber of the legislature, as well as the Lt. Governor and the House Speaker.
The committee would oversee a new Border Protection Unit, which would be created under HB20 by Representative Schaefer. A news release from Speaker Phelan’s office described the goal of the unit as “a mission-oriented, locally-based response to the state’s ongoing border security operations.”
The legislation calls for the Governor to appoint the Border Protection Unit Chief. That chief would have the power recruit law enforcement personnel and “law-abiding citizens without a felony conviction” to staff the unit. The bill language says those citizens would not have authority to make arrests “unless trained and specifically authorized by the governor.”
One goal of the unit is to provide relief for Texas National Guard soldiers, state troopers, and game wardens deployed along the border, allowing them to return to their home communities.
The Texas House Democratic Caucus sent a statement denouncing the legislation, calling it “misguided at-best” and claiming that it violates federal law.
Caucus chair Trey Martinez Fischer dubbed the legislation a “Show me Your Papers” bill, and said it creates unnecessary division at the Capitol.
“Past sessions make clear that extreme legislation like this is the most divisive issue we take up in the House. HB 20 is a tinderbox waiting to explode that will leave this Session in flames,” Fischer wrote, adding, “House Republicans have been warned.”
HB1600 would create a state penalty for persons trying to enter the state of Texas other than at an official port of entry.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.