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Texas Senate Passes $811 Million Border Security Measure

AUSTIN, Texas – Members of the Texas Senate passed a border security measure that significantly raises the level of spending in the state’s effort to secure the Texas border with Mexico. The bill (SB 3) by Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) passed with massive bipartisan support in a vote of 26-4.

“Now that the Texas Senate has overwhelmingly passed its state budget, funding border security at historic levels ($811 million), it was the appropriate time to pass SB 3,” said Lt. Governor Dan Patrick (R) in response to an inquiry from Breitbart Texas. ”Border security has always been a top priority as indicated in our budget which spends nearly $250 million more in border security than the House budget. As Lt. Governor this issue will continue to be my highest priority.”

“In the absence of the federal government’s constitutionally-mandated duty, the state of Texas has shouldered the burden of stopping human trafficking, illegal drug and weapon smuggling, and an influx of dangerous criminals and potential terrorists,” said Sen. Birdwell in a statement obtained by Breitbart Texas. “I’m extremely proud of the bipartisan support for SB 3, which will help the Department of Public Safety (DPS) sustain and appropriately expand their successful efforts to tackle these problems statewide.”

The Senate bill contains much of the language of bill passed by the Texas House in March (HB 11), according to the Lt. Governor’s press release. The bill contains additional measures to help secure the border that were requested by the DPS, as previously reported by Breitbart Texas.

Those measures include measures that:

  • Reinforces the crucial role of the National Guard in securing the border
  • Immediately allows DPS to implement southbound checkpoints
  • Provides funding for a statewide ten-hour workday for the DPS
  • Reorganizes the Transnational and Organized Crime Division of the Office of the Attorney General to assist with border prosecutions with an enhanced focus on human trafficking and other trans-national crimes
  • Creates a multi-agency training facility in the Rio Grande Valley which will serve local, state and federal law enforcement authorities.

“National security starts with border security and border security starts in Texas,” concluded Patrick.

In March, the Texas House passed a series of bills relating to border security and human trafficking. Those bills include HB 11 (referenced above) by State Rep. Dennis Bonnen (R-Angleton), HB 10 by State Rep. Senfronia Tompson (D-Houston) which dealt with the very serious Texas problem of human trafficking and HB 12 by House Homeland Security and Public Safety Chairman Larry Phillips (R-Sherman) that relates to the duties of the Texas border protection unit. None of these bills have received a hearing in the Senate. HB 12 (passed April 10) has yet to be referred to a Senate committee.

The Senate bill spends about $300 million more than authorized by the House. One of the primary differences relates to the role of the Texas National Guard. The Senate version keeps the Guard deployed for a longer period of time which has been a long-stated goal of the Lt. Governor.

An amendment by Senators Eddie Lucio, Jr. (D-Brownsvile) and Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa (D-McAllen) provides for a multi-use training facility to be used by Texas Military Forces, county and municipal law enforcement agencies, and any other military or law enforcement agency, including federal agencies.

The bill received bipartisan support. Only four Democrats voted against the bill. Those being Senators Sylvia Garcia (D-Houston), José Rodríguez D-El Paso), Rodney Ellis (D-Houston), and José Menéndez (D-San Antonio). The bipartisan support followed Senator Birdwell’s commitment to not accept amendments that would attach Senator Charles Perry’s (R-Lubbock) Sanctuary City bill (SB 185) and Senator Donna Campbell’s (R-New Braunfels) bill to end in-state tuition for the children of illegal immigrants, according to a Texas Tribune article by Julián Aguilar.

SB 3 also provides for southbound checkpoints. Those checkpoints would be located within 250 yards of the border and would have the goal of interdicting guns and money that were being smuggled into Mexico. Senator Rodriguez voted for the bill but expressed concerns that this provision and a provision dealing with human smuggling might be found unconstitutional.

The Senate bill will now move to the Texas House where it may see the same attention paid to it that the House bills have received in the Senate. Representative Bonnen has repeatedly expressed frustration about the lack of action by the Senate on the House bills that were passed in March. Senators have expressed similar frustrations with the House for its lack of action on several Senate bills including Open Cary and Campus Carry bills which have yet to be heard in the House.

Bob Price is a senior political news contributor for Breitbart Texas and a member of the original Breitbart Texas team. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and on Facebook.

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