In a striking rebuff of Washington’s passivity on border control, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) signed six robust border bills into law on Thursday, adding to the state’s efforts in curbing illegal entry and cartel activities. The Texas Legislature’s bipartisan response to what Abbott calls the “crisis created by the Biden administration” spotlights the state’s determination to handle the border issues that the federal government continues to shrug off.
Abbott’s move is considered groundbreaking because it designates Mexican cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs). This step builds on Abbott’s executive order from September last year. It enables law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue higher penalties for crimes connected to these cartels.
The law authorizes the addition of FTOs to intelligence databases. It permits local communities to seek public nuisance claims against cartels operating within their territory. It underscores Texas’ novel strategy of dealing with drug cartels by treating them as international terror threats, an approach that other states may well follow.
Additionally, Abbott signed into law SB 1484, a force multiplier that expands collaborative efforts in border security. It authorizes the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to train local law enforcement officials to handle cartel-related activity. It’s a promising development that seeks to bridge the gap between state and local agencies in combating the border crisis.
In an innovative move to deploy technology for border protection, Abbott signed SB 423 into law. It authorizes the Texas Military Department to utilize drones to secure the border. “They’ve been authorized to use them for various purposes but we wanted to make sure it’s crystal clear” they can do so to secure the border, Abbott clarified.
A significant stride towards collective border security came with SB 1403, authorizing the governor to establish an interstate compact for border security among interested states. This compact won’t require Congressional approval and will allow member states to pool law enforcement intelligence and resources.
The governor’s attention also turned toward property owners affected by border crimes. Abbott signed SB 1133, creating a grant program to compensate certain property owners for damages caused by criminal activities. It provides up to $75,000 in reimbursement for damages per incident.
Lastly, Abbott signed SB 602 to empower U.S. Border Patrol agents to arrest individuals for committing Texas crimes. This authorization grants Border Patrol more tools to secure the border, adding to their arrest, search, and seizure powers.
These new laws reflect a broader strategy of Texas tackling border security issues head-on, filling the vacuum left by the Biden administration. The state has spent nearly $10 billion over two legislative sessions to counter the border crisis.
Since the launch of Operation Lone Star in April 2021, law enforcement officers have arrested over 29,000 criminals, including people wanted for murder, and pushed back over 40,000 foreign nationals trying to enter Texas illegally.
With these new laws, Texas has shown its resolve to stand tall in the face of border security challenges. Governor Abbott’s unprecedented steps signal a clear message to the Biden administration. If Washington fails to secure the border, Texas will.