AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas House lawmakers are expected to debate late into the night Wednesday as the lower chamber considers a series of hotly contested bills, mostly related to border security.
State legislators are in the middle of their third special legislative session, as Gov. Greg Abbott called them back with requests to pass a slew of bills on a variety of topics.
One of the bills, House Bill 6, would allocate $1.5 billion toward building more mileage of the border wall. Another piece of legislation, House Bill 4, would make it a Class B misdemeanor for anyone to enter Texas illegally. Lastly, on the border, lawmakers will consider Senate Bill 4, which would increase penalties for human smuggling and crack down on the operation of stash houses.
Texas has spent nearly $10 billion on border security efforts during Gov. Greg Abbott’s tenure, as the state moves to repel and detain migrants in tandem with the federal government.
Lawmakers began debating Senate Bill 7 on Wednesday morning, which would prohibit private employers from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for their employees. Texas already prohibits such requirements for state employees. By afternoon, the House gave initial approval to the bill in a 90-57 vote after an hourlong debate.
Concerns about federal versus state authority
Under HB 4, state law enforcement would be able to arrest people who enter the state illegally and put them in jail for up to six months. The arrests could also result in a $2,000 fine. State police could also send those immigrants to a port of entry where they would “order” them to
During a committee hearing on the bill last week, opponents argued HB 4 is unconstitutional and goes against federal law.
Currently, only federal law enforcement officers have the authority to arrest and deport migrants. State officials can arrest immigrants for trespassing on private property in Texas, but not for crossing the border right now.
Additionally, state fiscal analysts predict if it becomes law, this new criminal offense “may result in additional demands upon state correctional resources.”