Trending Now: Texas GOP Lawmakers Advance Bill That Would Create “Border Protection Unit” Along With An Increase In Criminal Penalties

Credit: The Texas Tribune

Texas Republican lawmakers are trying to push legislation that would make it a state felony to cross the border from Mexico illegally and establish a state unit of officers to assist with the arrested of migrants coming into the state at places other than the ports of entry.

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House Bill 20 was introduced by Texas GOP state Rep. Matt Schaefer and would create a “Border Protection Unit” that allows its officers to “arrest, detain and deter individuals crossing the border illegally including with the use of non-deadly force.”

Schaefer’s bill, which has to pass both of Texas’ Republican-controlled legislative chambers before the end of May, says that officers serving in the unit must be U.S. citizens or permanent legal residents, and have law enforcement experience.

Fox News shared:

The state House proposal would also give officers serving in the unit immunity “from criminal and civil liability for any actions taken that are authorized” under the proposed law. In addition, civilians who have not been convicted of a felony could also be invited by the unit’s chief, which will be appointed by the governor, “to participate in unit operations and functions, but such persons may not have arresting authority unless trained and specifically authorized by the governor.”

People arrested for crossing into Texas illegally would face up to 10 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines for each violation.

There was another bill introduced in the state Senate by GOP state Senator Brian Birdwell that would make it a state crime for people who forgo legal immigration proceedings and cross into Texas illegally.

Birdwell’s legislation has received support from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick and would “jail a person for a year or two years if the person tried to enter the country a second time” and “also punish the person to life in prison if they had been previously convicted of a felony,” according to the Texas Tribune.

The offices of Schaefer and Birdwell didn’t respond to a request for comment about the proposed legislation. These bills are seen as a direct test of federal immigration law.

Under the current federal law, individuals who are arrested for entering the country illegally could face just a misdemeanor charge. Those arrested a second time under the current law could then be charged with a felony and banned from entering the United States for a number of years.

Texas House GOP Speaker Dade Phelan said in a statement that “addressing our state’s border and humanitarian crisis” was a priority for lawmakers in the state.

The Republican proposals in the state legislature serve as an extended effort to help further Governor Greg Abbott’s efforts to curb illegal border crossing known as Operation Lone Star.

Fox News also said:

The $4 billion border initiative from the governor has included an increase in patrols near the border with Mexico, gridlocking traffic with increased commercial truck inspections, and building more barriers along the international boundary. The effort also included directing officers to detain migrants who trespass on private property and bused thousands of migrants to Democrat-led cities, including New York and Washington, D.C.

Civil rights organizations and Democrats in Texas were very quick to denounce the legislation.

“It is designed to create racial profiling,” Texas Democratic Party Chairman Gilberto Hinojosa told The Associated Press. “Something that is just horrendous.”

“I think the underlying fact that it is going to allow people to question our being American in our border communities and across Texas is unacceptable,” Texas state Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, chairwoman of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said, according to The Associated Press.

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