88th LegislatureImmigration & BorderIssuesTaxes & SpendingTexas Legislative Committee to Mull $4.6 Billion in Border Security Spending

Operation Lone Star will likely be discussed in a subcommittee meeting next week as the Legislature decides how much to spend on border security.
February 20, 2023
A group of lawmakers within the Texas House Appropriations Committee will soon hear testimony on Operation Lone Star, Gov. Greg Abbott’s border security strategy, after Republicans proposed $4.6 billion in spending on border measures.

Rep. Mary Gonzalez (D-Clint) is the chair of an appropriations subcommittee that handles public safety, criminal justice, and other issues.

A member of Gonzalez’s staff told The Texan in an email on Monday that the bulk of the discussion on Operation Lone Star will likely take place during the subcommittee’s hearing on Monday, February 27. While the committee is set to meet Tuesday morning, the agencies called to testify this week are only “peripherally” involved in the operation, he explained.

The Office of the Attorney General is scheduled to testify before the committee Tuesday on the $3.3 million settlement that Attorney General Ken Paxton is asking the taxpayers to fund. Speaker Dade Phelen (R-Beaumont) said recently he does not believe it is a “proper use” of tax dollars and the onus would be on Paxton to convince the Legislature to do it.

During his State of the State address last week, Abbott made border security an emergency item on the legislative agenda. Consequently, lawmakers may consider it before the March 10 deadline for filing bills.

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However, border security funding is also part of the 1,000-plus-page spending bill filed by Appropriations Committee Chairman Greg Bonnen (R-Friendswood). At the request of Abbott, the draft includes $4.6 billion in spending on Operation Lone Star and other border security efforts.

Earlier this month, Phelan appointed the El Paso County Democrat as vice chair of the Appropriations Committee. Bonnen is the one who made Gonzalez chair of the subcommittee.

Phelan commented in an interview last week that the House will likely produce an “innovative solution” to the border crisis that will “test … federal laws,” but the speaker and his staff are being tight-lipped about the details for the time being.

In a news release published by her office, Gonzalez also called for a new regional DPS headquarters in El Paso.

In December, El Paso took center stage in the border security debate when thousands of illegal aliens breached the southern border and congregated in public areas such as downtown and the airport. At one point, Acting Chief Peter Jaquez of the El Paso sector said the daily average was 2,460 illegal border crossings.

Congresswoman Veronica Escobar (D-TX-16) requested more aid from the Biden administration, including emergency shelters and other resources. The City of El Paso even resumed its program of busing noncitizens to other parts of the state and country, which the city had ended after it was compared to Abbott’s strategy of busing noncitizens to various out-of-state locations.

The episode preceded the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to stay a federal judge’s opinion that would have ended the use of Title 42 expulsions. The nation’s high court has since canceled oral arguments in the case after the Biden administration contended it would be a moot point when the U.S. government’s pandemic emergencies end on May 11.


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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."