McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — The Texas Senate Border Security Committee on Thursday debated several border security-related bills, including one that would form a compact with other states and send resources to build more border wall in Texas.
SB 1403 would allow the governor to create an interstate compact with other states where “law enforcement intelligence on illegal activity occurring at the border with Mexico” would be shared with the other states that enter into the agreement.
The bill also would allow the sharing of state resources to build more border wall segments on state lands, and it would allow the sharing of other law enforcement resources to the Texas border “to ensure the protection of personnel and property.”
“This agreement seeks to address the shortcomings of existing federal border policy by providing states with the resources needed to address the ongoing security crisis at the southern border. The compact allows states to collaborate on border enforcement and defensive structures, strengthening their capabilities to manage the crisis,” state Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, who authored the bill, told the committee in Austin. “The compact will provide a more comprehensive approach to address the border security emergency and support border communities.”
But state Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, D-McAllen, pushed back, questioning why the bill only specifies the building of future border wall, and not the inclusion of virtual technology to stop illegal immigration from Mexico.
“We also focus on a virtual wall with smart technology that we can use also to help. So that’s my main concern, I don’t want to just designate a border wall,” Hinojosa said.
“There might be parts along the border that a wall is appropriate. But we also have a lot of technology and other ways and assets to be able to detect and be able to deter border crossings,” Hinojosa said. “Walls built down in the Rio Grande Valley have all these spaces. People can walk through them. You can even drive a truck through them. So this wall is really not a wall. It’s just putting money to make people believe that we’re all safe and they’re not that effective.”
Hinojosa is one of five members on the Senate Border Security Committee, which is chaired by Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, who has proposed several border security measures
Although Parker’s bill stipulates “congressional approval not required,” Birdwell expressed concerns that a compact with other states will require federal congressional approval in order not to violate the U.S. Constitution, which prevents states from entering into compacts.
The Constitution states: “No state shall, without the consent of Congress, lay any duty of tonnage, keep troops, or ships of war in time of peace, enter into any agreement or compact with another state, or with a foreign power, or engage in war, unless actually invaded, or in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay.”
A representative from the Texas Attorney General’s Office testified that there are several legal precedents, including over 30 interstate compacts, that have been negotiated and did not all have congressional approval.
Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, has had the state fund and build a few miles of border wall in the Rio Grande Valley, and he wants to build dozens more along the Texas-Mexico border. Currently, a 1.5-mile segment is going up near the Gulf of Mexico through the small town of Los Indios in Cameron County, and another 1.7-mile segment was built near the town of La Grulla in rural Starr County.
The State of Texas also is crowdsourcing to fund its border wall. So far it has received over $55.4 million in donations, according to the governor’s office.
The state has also collected $100,000 in general border security donations and over $412,000 to help transport migrants who cross into Texas and are released by federal authorities elsewhere to cities like New York, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., and Chicago.
Border security is deemed an “emergency item” of this Republican-led 88th Texas Legislature, Abbott announced last month during his State of State address.
Other proposed measures the Senate Border Security Committee discussed Thursday include:
- SCR 23 — urges the federal government to declare foreign drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.
- SB 600, proposed by Birdwell, would increase the minimum prison term for some criminal offenses involving human smuggling.
- SB 1427 — increases criminal penalties for certain criminal conduct and groups that threaten the state’s security, its residents and borders.
- SB 1900 — relating to the prosecution of certain organized crime offenses involving foreign terrorist organizations, including the acquisition of real estate property and title.
- SB 2424 — proposed by Birdwell, would creat a Class A misdemeanor for noncitizens who attempt to cross the Texas-Mexico border illegally.