Interstate Compact Bill to Secure Border Heads to Texas Governor Abbott’s Desk

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The Texas House and Senate both passed an Interstate Compact bill to help Texas, in concert with other states, secure the southern border.

Because the largely Democratic-controlled legislatures and governors of border states New Mexico, Arizona and California are unlikely to cooperate, an interstate compact would likely be formed with other Republican-led states to secure the Texas-Mexico border.

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Of the four southern border states, Texas shares the longest border with Mexico of 1,254 miles and has been hit hardest by Biden administration policies altering federal immigration law.

SB 1403, filed by Sen. Tan Parker, R-Flower Mound, and its companion bill, HB 82, filed by Rep. David Spiller, R-Jacksboro, passed the Senate on April 17 and the House on May 10. The House passed the bill with an amendment, which went back to the Senate, which concurred. The House and Senate then voted again to pass the bill on Tuesday. On Wednesday, it was sent to the governor, who is expected to sign it.

“An interstate compact for border enforcement will equip Texas and other participating states with the resources needed to address the shortcomings of existing federal border policy,” the bill analysis states. It establishes a means for states “to share enforcement resources, intelligence, and assistance in creating and maintaining defensive border structures,” which it argues, “would strengthen states’ capabilities to address, manage, and overcome the continuing security crisis at our southern border.”

S.B. 1403 amends Government Code to require the governor, on the state’s behalf, to develop and execute an interstate compact for border security among interested states. It requires the compact to provide for joint action among compacting states to share intelligence about illegal activity occurring at the border, funding and resources to build a physical barrier, and create and maintain defensive border structures, including a comprehensive surveillance technology system on state land.

“Because this interstate compact does not alter the balance of power between states and the federal government, congressional consent is not required for the agreement to take or remain in effect,” the bill analysis states.

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The legislature finalized the bill as Gov. Greg Abbott called on fellow governors to help secure the Texas-Mexico border. Democratic governors have yet to respond, but 24 Republican governors immediately pledged their support.

Abbott argues that despite the state’s best efforts, it can’t secure its border on its own. Since launching the state’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star, in March 2021, Texas OLS officers have apprehended more than 373,000 illegal foreign nationals and made over 28,000 criminal arrests with more than 25,000 felony charges reported. They’ve also seized over 402 million lethal doses of fentanyl, enough to kill more than every single person in the U.S.

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If they had more personnel and resources, they could accomplish even more, Abbott argues. The state already spent $4.5 billion over the past two years on border security and is poised to allocate another $4.6 billion over the next two years. This is taxpayer money Texas shouldn’t have to spend if the federal government were enforcing the law, Abbott argues.

Since President Joe Biden’s been in office and as a direct result of Biden administration policies, a former CBP chief argues there’ve been at least 7.7 million foreign nationals who’ve been apprehended and reported as gotaways illegally entering the U.S., the highest number in U.S. history.

So far this fiscal year, there’ve been 125 known, suspected terrorists who’ve been caught illegally entering through the southern border, according to CBP data.

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Parker argues that the 23,000 federal agents currently stationed along the southern border “have been given an impossible task” to secure it and deal with the deluge of illegal foreign nationals “with scant support from a federal administration that has consistently refused to make border enforcement a priority.”

The “sheer scale” of the border crisis, he argues, “demands greater efforts and heightened collaboration.”

The compact is likely to receive support from many Republican-led states. The 24 Republican governors who already pledged their support, said, “We support the efforts to secure the border led by Governor Abbott. While the federal government has abdicated its duties, Republican governors stand ready to protect the U.S.-Mexico border and keep families safe.”

Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.

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