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The Texas Senate on Wednesday sent legislation to Governor Greg Abbott that pledged nearly $ 2 billion in additional funds for border security over the next two years as the state prepares to erect a state-dollar border wall.
In a vote of 23 to 8, the Senate passed House Bill 9, which would allocate $ 1.888 billion to border security, nearly tripling state spending after lawmakers passed $ 1.05 billion for the same purpose earlier this year.
Texas Republicans, including Gov. Greg Abbott, have said the number of migrants trying to enter the country across the Texas-Mexico border has risen sharply this year because of what they call lax immigration police. Biden administration.
“The situation on our border is a failure of federal leadership and a totally avoidable disaster,” State Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said Tuesday. “For months, we’ve heard about the horrors facing those who make their journey north, about the crime and drugs they pour into our communities, about human trafficking and the spread of [COVID-19]. We have begged the federal government to act and not listen. “
Abbott, a two-term Republican seeking re-election next year, has made securing the border a top priority.
In March, it launched Operation Lone Star, which deployed military and police resources to the border to help local and federal authorities combat human and drug smuggling in Texas. In June, Abbott announced a state of disaster in 34 counties that saw large increases in migrant footsteps.
The bill gives Abbott’s office more than $ 1 billion, with about $ 750 million spent on building border barriers, in addition to the $ 250 million the state transferred in June from the Department’s budget. of Texas Criminal Justice as a “down payment” for the border wall.
Abbott’s office has said the costs of the wall could exceed $ 1 billion, but the funding was a “reasonable place to start.” The governor has also raised about $ 54 million in private donations for the wall through an online crowdfunding campaign.
Some Senate Democrats, particularly those representing parts of the border, criticized allocating such a large sum without knowing where barriers would be built and how much a wall would cost. State Senator Cesar J. Blanco, D-El Paso, said the state could find better alternatives.
“From my perspective, we rush too quickly to make a very archaic way to do border security where we send boots to the ground and physical barriers when we have the technology we have,” Blanco said in the Senate floor.
Other frontier Democrats, such as Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and Sen. Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen, were more sympathetic to the bill.
“I’ve talked to a lot of my constituents in Cameron and Hidalgo County … and I can tell you that the vast majority of these people want border security and they want the wall, believe it or not,” Lucio said.
The state has identified 733 border miles where some sort of barrier may be needed. In June, the Texas Department of Transportation awarded a $ 25 million contract for a nearly 2-mile stretch of concrete barrier along State Loop 480 at Eagle Pass. This project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.
HB 9 will help reimburse the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for money extracted from its budget and allocate money to turn three state detention centers into prisons to keep migrants arrested under Operation Lone Star.
The Texas Military Department will receive $ 311 million to pay for the deployment of an additional 1,800 Texas National Guard soldiers at the border, amounting to 2,500. The department has also been tasked with directing the construction of temporary fences along the border. The Texas Department of Public Safety will receive $ 154.8 million to provide 79 special operations soldiers who will be deployed to the border plus money to pay overtime for border operations.
The bill also includes money for the Texas Prison Standards Commission and the State Department of Health Services to ensure that state standards are met in converted state prisons to house migrants and to pay ambulance service as part of border security efforts.
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