Bill of the Week
House wants to throw some money at border problems
HB 11Author: Speaker Pro Tem Dennis Bonnen, R-Brazoria
Filed: March 2, 2015
HB 11 passed the House on March 18 on a vote of 131-12, and was referred to the Senate Subcommittee on Border Security on March 25. The bill, which passed after about five hours of debate, is estimated to cost $4.1 million over the biennium, and increases both DPS presence along the border and penalties for immigration-related crimes such as human smuggling and trafficking. The bill would also instruct DPS to investigate the "feasibility of providing [assistance] to federal authorities and to local law enforcement authorities working ... at international border checkpoints," and would create a "State Law Enforcement Operations Oversight Committee," which was added during the hearing by Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, in response to concerns about whether the bill's price tag was justifiable.
Unsurprisingly, Bonnen described the sweeping changes as necessary to "fill the void of failure of federal government in Texas"; no action on immigration in Texas is ever taken without using the opportunity to blame one's opponents. However, the majority of the House's 52 Democrats voted in favor of the bill. Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, a co-author, was quoted in a press release as saying, "The entire state is plagued by the drugs, human smuggling, and violence the cartels and narco-traffickers perpetrate. This is not just a border problem. The cartels and the gangs associated with them have a presence in all major Texas cities, and this legislation is aimed at disabling their criminal networks."
Twelve Dems remained unconvinced at the final vote. Rep. Mary González, D-El Paso, justified her "nay" by writing, "Despite a potential price tag of $500 million, this bill has no measures of accountability or benchmarks for success. As a state representative, it is my responsibility to make sure we spend state money effectively – but this was money spent on a political agenda. We should be investing in our schools, water infrastructure, and public health initiatives – not spending state money on politics. ... I will always work to support genuine efforts to keep our communities safe."