Texas House approves new funding for border wall, makes illegal entry a state crime

(The Center Square) – The Texas House passed historic border bills previously passed by the Senate and in line with Gov. Greg Abbott’s call for the third special session.

After contentious debate in the House, HB 4 was passed about 4 a.m. Thursday. The bill for the first time in state history makes illegal entry into Texas a state crime and allows Texas law enforcement to implement arrest and removal procedures, including transporting illegal foreign nationals to a port of entry.

If the person who entered Texas illegally fails to comply, they face being arrested with a second-degree felony charge, which carries a prison sentence of 2-20 years.

Filed by Republican Rep. David Spiller, it’s the companion bill of SB 11, filed by Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, which passed the Senate roughly two weeks ago.

According to the bill language, it prohibits “illegal entry into or illegal presence in this state by a person who is an alien, the enforcement of those prohibitions, and authorizing under certain circumstances the removal of persons who violate certain of those prohibitions.” It makes illegal entry a misdemeanor if the person “enters or attempts to enter Texas from a foreign nation at any location other than the lawful port of entry.” The offense is increased to a third-degree felony if the person’s removal “was subsequent to a conviction from commission of two or more misdemeanors involving drugs, crimes against a person, or both.”

It passed by a vote of 84-60. Democrats filed over two dozen amendments to the bill, which all failed.

Once Abbott signs the bill into law, which is expected, it’s likely to be immediately challenged in court. Abbott has said he plans on defending Texas’ right to defend itself and go all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary.

The House also passed an historic funding bill, HB 6, appropriating funds “for the construction, operation, and maintenance of border barrier infrastructure.” It passed by a vote of 84-61.

The border barrier measure allocates an additional $1.5 billion to fund Abbott’s Operation Lone Star projects. This includes continuing to build the first border wall in Texas history, as well as the first marine barriers installed in the Rio Grande River. Democrats attempted to add an amendment to the bill to prohibit funds from being allocated for additional marine buoy installation, which failed.

Construction projects already slated to begin once funded will primarily be in the border counties of Maverick, Starr, Val Verde and Webb. Land acquisitions and easements for additional projects are also in the works and eligible for the funding, state Rep. Jacey Jetton, R-Richmond, said at a recent House Committee on Appropriations hearing on the bill.

This funding is in addition to the legislature already allocating over $10 billion to OLS efforts for two, two-year budget cycles.

The House also passed SB 4, carried by Rep. Ryan Guillen, R-Rio Grande City, which creates a mandatory minimum sentence for human smugglers. Sentencing ranges from five to 25 years. The bill passed by a vote of 92-54.

Abbott praised the House passing the bills in several posts on social media. He said legislation “increasing penalties for human smuggling and stash house operations has passed the Texas Legislature. Human smuggling will now carry a 10-year mandatory minimum in Texas.” He also thanked the legislators who filed his riority bills, Sen. Pete Flores and Guillen, both Republicans.

He also praised etton and Spiller, both Republicans, and the Texas House for passing “key bills for Special Session #3: Criminalizing illegal entry into Texas and authorizing removal by licensed law enforcement, and more funding for the Texas border wall.”

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