The Republican-led Texas House of Representatives passed three immigration bills on Thursday morning, including one that would give state law enforcement officers the power to remove illegal immigrants to Mexico.
Republican Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and the Republican-led state legislature have prioritized the prevention of illegal crossing of the U.S. border by foreign nationals into the state, with Abbott having launched a broad range of initiatives under the “Operation Lone Star” banner to do so. After a night of contentious debate, the Texas House approved new immigration measures by a vote of 86 to 40, one of which would give state officers the power to remove illegal immigrants from the state to Mexico, assuming a power that is normally exercised by federal law enforcement officers following a deportation order.
That bill, House Bill 4, would also make entering Texas from Mexico through a location other than a port of entry — such as by crossing the Rio Grande — a state crime, the offense already being a federal crime but which the Biden administration has not prosecuted widely since assuming office.
“There is nothing unfair about ordering someone back from where they came if they arrived here illegally,” said Republican state Rep. David Spiller of Jacksonboro, the bill’s sponsor, to The Texas Tribune. Spiller added that the state would “be able to work out” issues with returning migrants to Mexico by coordinating with Mexican state authorities if Mexican federal authorities refused to accept them.
In fiscal year 2023, U.S. Border Patrol agents apprehended over two million foreign nationals who crossed the U.S. border illegally. Most of those individuals were apprehended in Texas, whose border with Mexico runs 1,254 miles, the longest of any U.S. state.
The state House also passed a measure, House Bill 6, by a vote of 86 to 41 that would appropriate $1.5 billion to construct a barrier along that border with Mexico, with the money funding 50 new miles of wall. As of August, contractors hired by the state have constructed 10 miles of a state-funded border wall.
A third vote approved Senate Bill 4, which would raise criminal penalties for smuggling illegal immigrants or operating a “stash house” for storing narcotics, many of which are smuggled across the border from Mexico, to 10 years’ imprisonment. The bill, which was passed by the Senate, will head to Abbott’s desk for his signature.
The bills were strongly opposed by Texas House Democrats, particularly after Republicans moved to limit debate on the bills after Democrats submitted many amendments to the legislation.
“They know it violates constitutional rights so they’re trying to cut us off on debate and on additional amendments to make sure that Texans are protected from white nationalists [and] xenophobic Nazi sympathizers,” said Democratic state Rep. Christina Morales of the 145th District, in a video posted on Twitter, now known as X. Another Democratic state representative, Armando Lucio Walle of Houston, said that the bills “hurt us to our fucking core” during an argument with Republican legislators.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Arjun Singh on October 26, 2023