Governor Abbott signs package of border security legislation

SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Texas Governor Greg Abbott has now signed a series of border security legislation passed during the 88th Regular Legislative Session into law at the Texas Capitol. This package of six bills are intended to expand Texas’ efforts to hold the line and protect Texans from the record level of illegal immigration, weapons, and deadly drugs pouring into Texas from Mexico.

“Thanks to the leadership and hard work of Director McCraw, General Suelzer, and their teams, Texas has pushed back against the swell of migrants and held the line to keep people out of Texas—but there’s more that needs to be done,” said Governor Abbott. “The Texas Legislature has stepped up to make sure we continue to robustly respond to President Biden’s growing border crisis, including allocating $5.1 billion for border security. Today, I am signing six bills from this year’s regular session to ensure that Texas can continue to do even more to stop illegal immigration at our southern border and provide new tools to the brave men and women along the southern border to protect Texans and Americans from the chaos and crisis of the border.”

The Governor was joined at the bill signing ceremony by Senators Brian Birdwell, Cesar Blanco, Pete Flores, and Tan Parker; Representatives Ryan Guillen, Caroline Harris, Tracy King, David Spiller, and Terry Wilson; Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw; Adjutant General of Texas Major General Thomas Suelzer; Zapata County Sheriff Raymundo Del Bosque; Brooks County Sheriff Benny Martinez; National Border Patrol Council Executive Vice President Paul Perez; and other border security advocates.

“Today, public enemy number one is the Mexican cartels, and they impact every community in Texas and the United States,” said Director McCraw. “Our mission is to detect and interdict transitional criminal activity and create proactive strategies to combat it. It’s dangerous to cross between ports of entry, and securing the border between them is ideal to fight Mexican cartels.”

During the press conference, Governor Abbott also announced the deployment of new marine floating barriers to deter illegal crossings in hotspots along the Rio Grande River. This strategy will proactively prevent illegal crossings between ports of entry by making it more difficult to cross the Rio Grande and reach the Texas side of the southern border. The first 1,000 feet of the marine floating barrier will be deployed near Eagle Pass.

Senate Bill 423 (Paxton/Wilson, T.M.)provides Texas military forces the authority to use unmanned aircrafts as part of an operation, exercise, or mission. The bill legalizes the use of drones for search and recovery missions after natural disasters and for monitoring the Texas-Mexico border as part of Operation Lone Star.

Senate Bill 602 (Birdwell/Harless)expands the authority of U.S. Border Patrol agents who have completed a DPS training program to include arrest, search, and seizure at established border checkpoints and points of entry for felony offenses under Texas law. Current law only allows agents to detain certain individuals at these locations.

Senate Bill 1133 (Blanco/King, T.)creates a grant program to compensate agricultural landowners up to $75,000 for property damage caused by trespassers committing a border crime, such as the smuggling of persons, evading arrest, human trafficking, or a drug offense. Increased migrant traffic and law enforcement activity has left many landowners with significant financial losses and property damage.

Senate Bill 1403 (Parker/Spiller)authorizes the Governor to coordinate and execute an interstate compact for border security among interested states without congressional approval. The compact will allow participating states to share law enforcement intelligence and resources for heightened detection and deterrence of illegal border activity and will further protect personnel and property to overcome continued shortcomings of existing federal border policy.

Senate Bill 1484 (Creighton/Holland)creates a collaborative border operations training program through DPS for peace officers employed by local law enforcement agencies along the border. The bill will allow DPS to share expertise in identifying and preventing of transnational criminal activity to local authorities.

Senate Bill 1900 (Birdwell/Guillen)designates Mexican drug cartels and criminal organizations as foreign terrorist organizations in the State of Texas and increases penalties for the destruction of illegal drugs and the operation of stash houses. This bill also adds foreign terrorist organizations to current intelligence databases and allows local entities to seek public nuisance claims against them.

Governor Abbott issued an executive order last September designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations and has requested President Joe Biden take similar federal action.

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