Texas bill creating new state line unit killed by Democrats, but GOP continues to make efforts
Texas Republicans successfully added a controversial border unit to a different piece of legislation just hours after Democrats thought they had killed it. The original bill allowed ordinary citizens to apply to patrol the border, empowering them to arrest or detain migrants within counties along the border under a new unit housed within the Texas Department of Public Safety. The proposed legislation also transferred increased power to Governor Greg Abbott to oversee operations on the US-Mexico border.
Using the procedural tactic known as a point of order, Democrats referred the motion back to a House committee. Due to a looming House deadline, the bill failed to make it to Abbott’s desk. However, the new border unit was added as an amendment to another bill by Republican Representative Ryan Guillen, by a vote of 90-51. That bill tentatively passed the House, 92-51, and is expected to go before the Senate later today, just before midnight on Thursday, to send House bills to the Senate.
In a highly tactical political move, both Democrats and Republicans have used various strategies to their advantage. House Speaker Dade Phelan, a Republican from Beaumont, considered the proposal, initially brought by Tyler’s GOP Representative Matt Schaefer, one of his priority bills this session.
Schaefer described the bill as a “bold new” approach to border security, but it has faced opposition and criticism from Democrats who see it as creating a “vigilante” unit that could commission peace officers and non-commissioned officers (citizens hired for the unit in counties along the border). However, Schaefer argued that the non-commissioned officers would require express authorization and training established by Abbott and the Public Safety Commission before they could arrest or detain migrants.
Democrats expressed concern that the proposal removed DPS director Steven McCraw’s authority over border operations and instead gave authority to the head of the newly created unit, who would be hired and fired exclusively by Abbott.
The bill did not begin debate until after 9 p.m., approximately 12 hours after the lower house met for the day, with protesters gathering on Capitol Hill to demonstrate against the proposal. Critics saw the bill as a way to challenge a Supreme Court ruling that limits the number of states that can enforce federal immigration laws. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said he wants to challenge legal precedents established by the 2012 Arizona v. U.S. ruling.
Representative Gina Hinojosa, a Democrat from Austin, questioned Schaefer’s intention behind the proposal. Multiple Democrats saw the bill as a way to challenge the Supreme Court ruling, providing more opportunities for racial profiling of Latinos and an increased risk of violence.
The proposed legislation has stirred controversy and debate on both sides of the aisle, with its future remaining uncertain in the coming weeks. Regardless of the outcome, the debate surrounding the creation of the new border unit will undoubtedly continue to play a role in shaping Texas’ current political landscape.
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