Criminal JusticeImmigration & BorderIssuesState HouseTaxes & SpendingTexas House Committee Mulls $1.8 Billion in New Border Security Funding

Sheriffs from counties along the southern border testified in favor of the bill at a Texas House Appropriations Committee hearing.
August 24, 2021
As the country faces extraordinary levels of illegal immigration, Chairman Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood) of the Texas House Appropriations Committee has introduced a bill that would allocate $1.8 billion to border security efforts over the next two years.

There were reportedly 212,672 enforcement encounters with illegal aliens in the southwestern United States in July, according to the most recent update by United States Customs and Border Protection. According to a sector-by-sector breakdown current as of August 4, that includes at least 146,302 in Texas sectors, most of which were in the Rio Grande Valley.

Bonnen’s bill, House Bill (HB) 9, would grant more than $1.02 billion to trusteed programs in the Office of the Governor for the purpose of border security. The chairman indicated in a hearing on Tuesday that he chose this mechanism to provide more flexibility.

Governor Greg Abbott started a state-funded border wall project in June and designated $250 million to the project as a “down payment.” The governor could use the additional proposed funding for the border wall.

Also in the trusteed programs, $3.8 million would also be provided for “additional training regarding the handling of misdemeanor crimes for district and county attorneys.”

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The bill would also grant $301 million for the Texas Military Department to fund the deployment of National Guard troops to the border.

The text also sets aside $134 million for Operation Lone Star, the state’s enforcement effort against illegal immigration, for one year. An additional $3.4 million is appropriated for a “tactical marine unit” and $18 million more for “full-time equivalent” employees.

The bill provides for $274 million for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for “correctional security operations.” Ancillarily, the Texas Commission on Jail Standards would be given $214,785.

$32 million would be appropriated for “indigent legal representation, foreign language interpreters for courts, increased staff functions, equipment purchases, and program administration costs.”

The Texas Department of State Health Services would also receive a total of $16 million for four ambulances. Two of those vehicles are to be used at border security processing centers.

On Tuesday, the committee heard testimony in favor of HB 9 from witnesses including sheriffs from South Texas, the governor’s office, and other state agencies mentioned in the bill.

Sheriff Joe Frank Martinez of Val Verde County advocated “basically […] shut[ting] the border down” due to illegal immigration overwhelming local resources. Martinez reminded the committee that out-of-state agencies are supplementing his office.

“[T]here’s a lack of manpower, there’s a lack of resources, you know I had to have the Florida Game Warden help my office recover bodies out of the river, because we don’t have the resources,” Martinez said.

On Friday, the United States Supreme Court halted a ruling by a federal judge in Amarillo that would have required the Biden administration to reimplement the Migrant Protection Protocols, also known as the “remain in Mexico policy.”

When asked by Representative Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler), a panel of four sheriffs including Martinez agreed that the remain in Mexico policy “helped slow down the crossings.”

The Migrant Protection Protocols were officially rescinded via a June 1 memo by United States Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas.

Abbott has made a point this year to ramp up the state’s border security efforts, though he has faced criticism for not implementing border security policies earlier in his administration. Abbott is serving his second term as governor, having been in office since January 2015.

The chances of any bill being considered by Texas lawmakers remain tentative at best as Democrats continue to quibble among themselves over whether to deprive the Texas House of a quorum to prevent the GOP from approving more stringent election laws.

Update: The committee passed the bill by a vote of 14 to eight with five members absent from the vote.

A copy of the bill can be found below.


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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."