Dear federal government: Texas needs help covering the cost of border security. Signed, the Texas Senate.
“What we’re trying to do with this is wake up Congress,” said Sen. Tommy Williams, R-The Woodlands, author of the resolution adopted by the Senate today. The resolution, a mostly symbolic act that doesn't carry the weight of a law, effectively sends a letter to the U.S. Congress and President Barack Obama asking for extra funds for Texas to enforce existing immigration laws. But its real point is to demand more action from Washington on illegal immigration.
A full cost analysis of the “exact funding necessary for full enforcement of all immigration laws in Texas” will be conducted under the resolution, and the Texas Legislature will choose members from both chambers to meet with members of the U.S. Congress to discuss the “ongoing border security crisis.”
“The inability of Washington to develop some form of comprehensive immigration reform that might address this border security problem puts an unfair and unreasonable burden on the entire state,” the resolution says.
But Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, the only senator who voted against the resolution, said the U.S. Congress already is aware and that the issue is a lack of federal resources — a problem this resolution won't solve.
He also said that nine violent incidents cited in the resolution — including the murder on Falcon Lake, and bullets flying across the border into a University of Texas building in El Paso — occurred in Mexico. Rodríguez worried the language of the resolution may lead non-border residents to conclude that Texas' border towns are unsafe, by implying they suffer the same level of violence as in Juárez. “While the resolution is well intentioned, it really does not help address the violence that’s occurring in Mexico, not in the United States,” Rodriguez said.
Tripling the number of federal border patrol agents at the border would cost the federal government less than $2.5 billion — but that's no chump change. According to the resolution, Texas spent more than $79 million over the last four years on increased border security efforts, hiring 172 law enforcement officers for the border, purchasing five helicopters and increasing overtime, training and technology.
Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, said the costly impact of Mexican drug cartels has also gone beyond the border by bringing drug trafficking into metropolitan areas. Since 2006, $6.8 billion in illegal drugs, $128 million in cash, 2,600 stolen firearms and weapons, and 2,230 stolen vehicles — all related to human and drug trafficking — have been seized in Texas.
“Our federal government is not paying enough attention to what’s going on south of the border,” said Hinojosa, adding that Texas is “doing more than our share” to cover the costs of housing foreign prisoners and bolster enforcement at the border.
Texas prisons currently hold 12,000 foreign citizens — costing the state over $200 million per year. The resolution states, “At the very least, the federal government should be responsible for the cost of housing illegal immigrants who have been convicted of committing a crime,” and asks the federal government to reimburse these costs.
Last year Gov. Rick Perry asked the federal government for 3,000 extra border patrol officers, 1,000 National Guard troops and aerial drones, like those used in Arizona, to counter escalating border violence in Texas. The feds upped the number of border patrol officers but did not grant Perry’s requests for more aerial security or National Guard troops.