The Texas Legislature is on track to allocate almost $2 billion toward Gov. Greg Abbott’s comprehensive plan to stem illegal immigration across Texas’ border with Mexico. That’s on top of the more than $1 billion approved during the regular legislative session that ended in May.
Bob Garrett, Austin bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News, told Texas Standard the move would triple the state’s normal funding for border security, and make Texas a standout in terms of state-run border monitoring. Immigration is normally under the purview of the federal government. Gov. Abbott already plans to build more border fencing, but the additional money would help pay for deploying state police and National Guard members to border-crossing areas, creating more detention facilities with visiting judges so cases can be processed more quickly, and criminalizing illegal crossings so that people who do so could be put in jail for up to 12 months. Garrett called it “a soup-to-nuts agenda.”
“He’s creating a whole system to detain people for at least a year, and then hoping that the word will get back to down south or other countries or continents, that Texas isn’t letting people in,” Garrett said.
Because so much of Texas’ borderlands are privately owned, it’s possible it will be easier for Abbott to follow through on more state-run border security efforts. He’s planning for some of his border wall, for example, to be built on private land in Maverick County, where some landowners have agreed. This wouldn’t be as achievable in other states where most borderlands are federally owned.
Immigration is still a top issue with Texas Republicans – Garrett says it’s “primal,” even. And a tough stance seems to resonate with them, just as it did when former President Donald Trump promoted his own wall project here. Garrett suspects building that support is part of Abbott’s reelection strategy, and could even be part of a long-term strategy to run for president in 2024.
“This would be a potential signature for him [if he were] to run for president. I mean, [Gov.] Ron DeSantis can’t build a fence around Florida,” Garrett said.
Support for Abbott’s immigration plan appears strong among other Texas Republican lawmakers. Garrett says the plan, which would require about $2 billion from general purpose revenue, has received top priority as other state agencies and programs struggle for funding.
“The problems in foster care or lack of health insurance coverage for the poor … we can’t put air conditioning in prisons,” he said. “This is going to the top and getting first-class treatment from the Republicans.”
He questions whether such a program would even be effective since so many of the people trying to cross the southern border are “desperate.”
“Some of the people these border sheriffs were describing are so desperate – women that know they may be sexually assaulted … It’s unlikely that either a one-year criminal trespassing or a fence or barrier is going to stop some of these people.”