AUSTIN (Nexstar) — The Texas House gave initial approval Tuesday to a bill that would send $1.5B to further construction of the border wall, one of Gov. Greg Abbott’s key border security policies on the fourth special session call.
Senate Bill 3 would appropriate more funding for the construction of the wall at the Texas-Mexico border, along with send about $40 million for “overtime expenses and costs” to increase law enforcement presence in Colony Ridge “to preserve public safety and security.” Colony Ridge is a Houston suburb that has become of concern to conservatives who say it is an attractive area for undocumented migrants to live.
The expansions would primarily be in the Rio Grande Valley region, though exact locations and specifications of the wall remain uncertain. The funds would go directly to the governor’s office to use for Operation Lone Star — Abbott’s keynote border security initiative that began in the spring of 2021. Texas has spent nearly $10 billion on border security efforts during Abbott’s tenure.
During debate, House Democrats expressed concern that the state should make this substantial investment without clear metrics established to determine efficacy, as well as accountability for how the dollars are being spent.
“This is a huge amount of money, we shouldn’t spend it unless we know that there is data that indicates it will impede illegal entries into into Texas,” said Rep. John Bryant, D-Dallas.
SB 4 sponsor Rep. Jacey Jetton, R-Richmond, noted that the federal government has deemed the border barrier as an effective way in stopping illegal entry.
“We heard from experts that talked about this tool being an important tool to deterring and allowing for movement of migration to certain areas where we can use less personnel in those areas where walls are, to interdict people that come through the border illegally,” he said.
One amendment by Rep. Tracy King, D-Uvalde, was adopted. It adds a provision requiring assistance to local government and law enforcement to “alleviate costs associated with the enforcement and prosecution of criminal laws involving illegal entry into this state.”
Funding would come out of this biennium’s general revenue and be up to the governor’s office discretion.
The bill will have to clear again in the House for a third, procedural vote on another day. Then, it will need approval again from the Senate with the new amendment.