In a significant move, the Texas House of Representatives has passed immigration bills that mark a drastic shift in the state’s approach to border control.
According to the Texas Tribune, the House approved measures on Tuesday to not only allocate over $1.5 billion for additional border barriers but also to criminalize the act of illegally crossing the Texas-Mexico border as a state crime.
Senate Bill 3 would channel $1.54 billion towards the construction of border barriers and fund state troopers to patrol Colony Ridge, a housing development near Houston.
During the House’s debate, lawmakers adopted an amendment from state Rep. Tracy King, D-Uvalde, to SB 3. This amendment would allow a portion of the funds to aid local police and governments in enforcing the newly proposed state crime as outlined in Senate Bill 4.
SB 4 takes a more direct approach to immigration by making it a state misdemeanor to illegally cross from Mexico into Texas. It grants Texas peace officers the authority to arrest illegal immigrants and requires a state judge to order the person to leave the U.S. and return to Mexico, circumventing prosecution. After passing on an 83-61 vote, the bill, already approved by the Senate, now awaits the governor’s signature.
Under SB 4, charges could escalate to a felony for migrants accused of additional crimes or non-compliance with a judge’s deportation order. The bill also allows immigrants to present legal status evidence during prosecution. Penalties range from a year in jail for a misdemeanor to two to 20 years for a felony, according to Texas Tribune.
The proposed legislation has not been without its detractors—Democrat Houston state rep. Jolanda Jones voiced strong opposition, claiming the bill to be racially motivated.
“When or if this passes, I’m going to be embarrassed to be a part of a body that legally sanctioned racism against Hispanic people from the border,” Jones said during the debate.
House Rep @JonesJolanda believes that SB4, a strong border security bill that has now passed the Texas Senate and House, is racist.
I guess she’s really embarrassed now. I would be embarrassed too if I were despicable enough to work as a house rep and not bother educating… pic.twitter.com/7Z0b3vhwdJ
— Sarah Fields (@SarahisCensored) November 15, 2023