(The Center Square) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed historic border security bills into law on Monday, including making illegal entry from a foreign country a state crime. The Texas law is the first of its kind in the country and is expected to be challenged in court, with many arguing it’s unconstitutional.
He signed three border bills in front of the first wall Texas has ever built on state soil, south of Brownsville in the Rio Grande Valley. Gov. Abbott is the first governor in the country to direct, and allocate funding for, the construction of a border wall on state soil.
“Four years ago, the United States had the fewest illegal border crossings in about 40 years” because of four policies implemented by the Trump administration, he said. After President Joe Biden eliminated them, the U.S. has seen the highest number of illegal border crossings in the country’s history.
“Last year, there was more than 2.4 million apprehended crossing the border illegally,” Abbott said, which is “larger than the size of Houston,” the largest city in Texas.
While Democrats in New York City and Chicago complain about a “migrant crisis,” Abbott said, “I don’t think they truly know the magnitude of the damage caused to the United States by [President] Joe Biden because three times the number of residents of Chicago have entered illegally under Joe Biden and about equal the amount of total population in New York City have entered the country illegally under Joe Biden,” he said, excluding gotaways.
“Gotaways” is the official CBP term defining those who illegally enter the U.S. primarily between ports of entry, intentionally seeking to evade capture by law enforcement, and don’t turn back to Mexico or Canada. An estimated 1.7 million gotaways have illegally entered nationwide since January 2021, The Center Square reported. The total number of illegal entries are estimated to be significantly higher than the numbers Abbott cited.
Including gotaways, since January 2021, Texas has seen over 1.9 million people pour through its border, The Center Square first reported.
Abbott also pointed to the national security threats posed by the volume of illegal border crossers, citing FBI Director Wray’s warning about a likely terrorist attack. President Biden’s “deliberate inaction has left Texas to fend for itself,” Abbott said, pointing to Article 1 Section 10 of the U.S. Constitution, which empowers states “to take action to defend themselves and that is exactly what Texas is doing.”
While not describing the situation at the border as an invasion, Abbott referred to the invasion clause of the Constitution, which the judges and commissioners of roughly 50 Texas counties have invoked. More have issued disaster declarations and states of emergency, which have been renewed every month since April 2021.
The three bills Abbott signed into law passed the state legislature in the third and fourth special legislative sessions. In addition to the regular legislative session convened at the beginning of the year, Abbott called legislators back to Austin to pass bills in four special sessions.
Abbott signed S.B. 3 and S.B. 4 into law, which passed in the 4th special session. S.B. 4’s goal is to “stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas” by creating a criminal offense for illegal entry into Texas from a foreign nation. Repeat offenders who illegally reenter Texas can face a prison sentence of up to 20 years, according to the new law.
S.B. 3 allocates another $1.54 billion to build more border barriers and continue building Texas’ border wall. Texas has already completed more than 16 miles of wall, Abbott said, with another 33 miles slated to be built. Over 110 miles of razor wire barriers have been laid, he said.
He also signed S.B. 4, which passed in the third special session, to increase the penalties for human smuggling and operating stash houses. He said the situation “has gotten out of control” in Texas. In 2017, there were 370 human smuggling arrests in Texas. There were 7,700 smuggling arrests in 2023, a more than 2,000% increase. The new law creates a mandatory 10-year minimum prison sentence for smuggling and a five-year mandatory prison sentence for operating a stash house.
These laws will enable law enforcement officers to continue their efforts through Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star. Since it launched in April 2021, OLS officers have apprehended over 489,500 illegal foreign nationals, according to state data. They’ve also made more than 37,500 criminal arrests, with more than 34,100 felony charges reported. They’ve also seized over 450 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill more than everyone living in the U.S. and Canada.
Abbott also launched the state’s busing strategy in April 2022 and has since sent over 80,000 people who illegally entered the country and were released into Texas by the Biden administration to so-called sanctuary cities. The first destination was Washington, D.C., followed by five more Democratic cities. Since April 2022, over 12,500 were bused to Washington, D.C.; since August 2022, over 29,300 to New York City and over 23,800 to Chicago; since November 2022, over 3,300 to Philadelphia. In 2023, two more cities were added, with 10,300 being sent to Denver and over 1,200 to Los Angeles so far.