The Texas Senate has passed a bill that would create a new crime for foreign nationals who enter the state illegally and authorize law enforcement to arrest any offender anywhere in the state.
The bill, SB 2424, cleared the state Senate last week in an 18–12 party-line vote. It would create a new state-level criminal offense called “improper entry from foreign nation,” which carries a penalty of up to one year in jail for first-time offenders, two years in state jail for second-time offenders, and up to life in prison for convicted felons who illegally cross the border.
According to the bill, this offense applies to any foreigners who “enters or attempts to enter this state from a foreign nation at any location other than a lawful point of entry; eludes examination or inspection by United States immigration officers; or attempts to enter or obtains entry to this state from a foreign nation by an intentionally false or misleading representation or the intentional concealment of a material fact.”
If it becomes law, the bill would also allow state law enforcement officers to arrest and prosecute offenders anywhere in Texas.
The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Sen. Brian Birdwell, said his proposal “neither enforces nor contradicts” federal immigration law, because it is specifically crafted in a way to avoid intruding on federal immigration enforcement authority.
Birdwell also hopes that the threat of legal punishments could deter potential offenders. “You want to come into the country illegally, go through New Mexico, Arizona, or California,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, a Republican, said in an April 13 statement that the measure is meant to fill the gap in security along the Texas-Mexico border left by the federal government.
“Since the federal government has abdicated its constitutional responsibility to secure our border, Texas must step into the breach,” Patrick said.
Under Operation Lone Star (OLS), a $4 billion initiative launched in 2021, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott has already deputized thousands of state police and military service members to ramp up border security, resulting in more than 360,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions and more than 26,000 criminal arrests as of this March. Patrick said Texas can and must do more.
“I believe that more must be done to secure our border and keep Texans safe,” he said. “SB 2424 will allow Texas to take matters into our own hands and make illegal entry into Texas a state crime. This bill makes it abundantly clear to all who enter illegally that Texas is serious about enforcing our border.”
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democrat, said he worries that an even greater number of arrests of illegal border crossers would overwhelm a criminal justice system already overburdened by the OLS.
“I agree that the federal government is not doing enough in meeting its responsibilities along the border,” Hinojosa said. “But this bill cannot work. It is going to create complete chaos and a mess along the border.”
In response, Birdwell said this could be solved because the governor “will likely use” some of the OLS funding to open up new facilities strictly for OLS detainees, and that police officers will also enforce the law “with an eye toward overcrowding.”
The bill has advanced to the Texas House State of Affairs Committee.
From The Epoch Times