Texas has passed legislation giving $1.54 billion to build border barriers and support other defenses against the illegal immigration crisis.
Senate Bill 3 has been passed in the state’s Senate and is now going to Governor Greg Abbott’s office, who has said he would sign it into law. The bill has two parts, one relating to continuing the construction of a barrier on the Texas–Mexico border, and another related to enforcement efforts in parts of Texas, for a total of $1.54 billion. Republican State Sen. Joan Huffman sponsored the legislation.
The additional barriers funded by the bill will be added to the already existing 40 miles of barriers along the Mexican border, while the whole length of the Texan border with Mexico is 1,200 miles.
The enforcement part of the bill is related to Senate Bill 4—already passed and to be given to the Governor for the final decision—which makes it a crime to illegally pass between ports of entry along the border with Mexico. Individuals who break this law could be immediately arrested by police, and judges are required to deport them back to Mexico. Gov. Abbott is expected to sign this piece into law as well.
Senate Bill 3 will allocate some of the money as financial help to municipal governments enforcing the previous bill. These locales might have increased expenses due to the new enforcement efforts.
The bill will also give $40 million for state troopers to patrol Colony Ridge, an area claimed to have become a magnet for illegal immigrants.
State Rep. Jacey Jetton, who sponsored the bill in the House, had previously said that the state could also use the money to deploy more floating barriers, like the 1,000-foot-long barrier the state deployed in June on the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass.
The Biden administration sued Texas for the river barriers and a Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that they have to be removed. An appeals court allowed it to remain in place temporarily while Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office pursues an appeal.
The Biden administration is also trying to remove land barriers along the Texan border installed on private land, according to Attorney General Paxton.
The concertina fencing was installed as part of Operation Lone Star, an initiative launched by Gov. Abbott in 2021 aimed at deterring illegal border crossings.
Mr. Paxton’s lawsuit claims U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents recently stepped up an existing practice of cutting, destroying, or otherwise damaging wire that the state had strategically placed with landowners’ permission.
U.S. District Judge Alia Moses in Del Rio, Texas, said the state had not shown at this early stage of the case that the federal government’s conduct amounted to a “final agency action” that can be challenged under a federal law governing rulemaking by agencies.
Ms. Moses thus rejected the Texas government’s bid to block the federal immigration authorities from destroying the land barriers. While criticizing the Biden administration for its “utter failure” to prevent unlawful entry into the United States, Ms. Moses said Texas was unlikely to prevail in its claims that a federal policy of removing the fencing was illegal.
The outcome of the state’s lawsuit filed in October is still pending, and Ms. Moses denied the state’s motion to block federal officials from destroying the wire fencing while the lawsuit is pending.
The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Attorney General Paxton said in a statement that his office was appealing the decision.
“I am disappointed that the federal government’s blatant and disturbing efforts to subvert law and order at our State’s border with Mexico will be allowed to continue,” Mr. Paxton said.
Since Operation Lone Star began in March 2021, there have been more than 28,560 criminal arrests and 25,871 felony charges had been filed as of May 2023, according to the State government’s website.
More than 417 million lethal doses of fentanyl have been seized statewide, and there have been more than 377,000 illegal immigrant apprehensions and referrals.
Gov. Abbott said that “fentanyl is the single greatest drug threat our state and country has ever known, and this record amount of fentanyl seized would have otherwise made its way into communities across Texas and the nation.”
Reuters contributed to this report.