This report is intended to give you an overview and highlight the various topics taken up. It is not a verbatim transcript of the discussions but is based upon what was audible or understandable to the observer.
HB 6 (Huffman) Relating to making an appropriation for the construction, operation, and maintenance of border barrier infrastructure.
- Huffman lays out the CS
- SB 6 adds $1.5 billion to the office of the governor for border wall infrastructure
- Money would go to barrier building
- A portion will go to DPS
- Highlights concerns around Colony Ridge
- Perry – If the HB 4 version were to pass, $1.5 billion would not cover the total cost to the state. Will the funding go towards the border wall construction and what if we go over budget?
- Huffman – We created this bill to have the best chance of going through legislature. In the regular budget we have $100 million in local grants. Additional cost will be under the Governor’s office. The spending of this money is very narrow
- Zaffirini- How can we assure the people spending this money will be accountable and transparent? Do you see regular audits?
- We have performance indicators
- Zaffirini – and is there any attempt to be reimbursed by the federal government?
- Yes there have been attempts but I don’t see it being verry likely
- Hall – $6.6 billion that we are going to appropriate now?
- Flores – The first appropriation is also very flexible?
- I wouldn’t say flexible
- Hinojosa – The number of immigrants is increasing and not decreasing, how effective is it? We need to find a way to see if the wall is effective
- We have metrics in place, but we will let Gov’s Office and agencies speak on that
Sarah Hicks, Office of the Governor – Resource
Mike Banks, Office of the Governor – Resource
Steve McCraw, DPS – Resource
John Raff, Texas Facilities Commission – Resource
- Perry – We have more people crossing the border more than ever, will additional funding do any difference? When the border conversation comes up is there an overall plan of options at the Governor’s Office, are we communicating with the federal government?
- Hicks – There is a plan to look at all sorts of tools. The plan is permanent barriers and more non-permanent barriers, technology and ground personnel. Texas has 62% of the shared mileage with Mexico but only 42% of all crossing are in Texas so using a combination of all these tools is driving traffic out of Texas which is part of the goal
- McCraw – Technology and layered barrier defense is what the governor has employed against this problem. Since 2021 immigration trends have risen dramatically. There is a westward shift of immigration. Infrastructure does affect resource commitment, but we also fight an information battle. Cartels pass false information that affects the flow of immigrants
- Perry – We are lacking DPS officers in inner Texas because of Operation Lone Star, are we in a position to do the federal government’s job and force their hand?
- McCraw – We are prepared to have the conversation at any time. I am confident to enforce ang legislation that is passed
- Hall – I am concerned that we are taking money to seem like we are doing something. How did we arrive at $6.6 billion?
- Hicks – It is the continuation and build of Operation Lone Star to begin with. $650 million for border barriers, $100 million for local grants, and $150 million for transportation. The purpose of OLS is to supplement the local communities on the border. We can see the results of the having permanent wall. $1.5 billion is because we have over 100 miles to build.
- Hall – How much wall is being built and how much of the $6.6 billion is for the wall?
- Hicks – $2.1 billion is for over 100 miles of border wall
- McCraw – the wall is a funneling method
- Hall – What are we trying to accomplish with the wall? How many miles of wall and how big a wall is needed to do what OLS is wanting to accomplish?
- McCraw – we are trying to find areas with the largest gaps. Buoys, wire, and technology might be better used in some areas than walls
- Hall – Who is in control of this overall plan?
- McCraw – it is a collaborative between the Governor’s Office and Border Patrol. There are many gaps and the question is how do you close
- Hall – How many miles of gap do we need to close?
- McCraw – 700-900 miles
- Hall – How do you know what the cost is going to be if you have no control over what the contractor provides?
- Raff – we have pretty good certainty for some sections of the wall. We have them give us a schedule of values. It is a fixed fee contract
- Hall – Cost plus fixed fee or fixed price?
- Raff – it is a fixed price
- Flores – Describe how you coordinate your border operations and fund local PDs?
- Hicks – Our Grant office lets counties know what money is there and the communicate to us what is best to fund and helps the overall strategy.
- McCraw – Game Warden, Border Patrol, and National Guard need to be integrated into communication.
- Flores – How much coordination and communication is had between DPS and local police forces?
- McCraw -Texas Sheriffs aren’t shy and we have monthly border meeting with all Texas Border sheriffs. They have a great understanding of what is happening on the border
- Hughes – How does DPS handle agent deployments?
- McCraw – 7-day deployments is about all DPS agents can handle. We are trying to maximize agent participation to get the most for our dollar
- Hughes – What happens when an illegal immigrant is in DPS custody?
- McCraw- We either detain or refer them to border patrol. We do not separate families, e.g. mother and children.
- Hughes – Who handles where the wall goes?
- McCraw- Certain areas get prioritized based on threat level but some other factors go into the decision on where the wall goes
- Hughes – Did the federal government allow us to buy sections that they built but never put up
- Raff -We have bought 1.5 miles and believe 80 miles are still in storage in California
- Hughes – Did we coordinate with the Biden administration and the building of border wall in Starr County?
- Raff- Yes we did and we have meetings scheduled with them
- Schwertner – Can you elaborate on the effectiveness of Trump and Biden administrations on border policy?
- McCraw- The change in administration definitely has effected the return to border policy. The previous administration was penalizing those who attempt to come across the new administration is incentivizing them
- Schwertner – Does Texas have the authority to implement a Texas Return to Mexico policy?
- McCraw – We don’t have any provisions that would allow us to do this. We can only enforce state crimes and illegal crossing is not a state crime. We are only allowed to detain for criminal trespassing
- Perry – Do you have a timeline and cost estimate for Colony Ridge deployments?
- McCraw – We do not have a cost estimate or timeline
- Perry – How many troopers are dedicated to Colony Ridge?
- McCraw – 30 troopers
- Perry – is there any indication of money laundering and crime in Colony Ridge?
- McCraw – Every community of Texas is affected by the cartel. There is no specific outlier that relates to crime in Colony Ridge
- Perry – We need to be careful about narrative on Colony Ridge
- Zaffirini – How have you interacted with property owners on border walls
- Raff – we do not entertain imminent domain. We judge the interest and if we get a hard no, we move on.
- Zaffirini – Is the Facilities Commission participating in the removal of Carrizo cane?
- Raff – I do not have the information on how we do that
- Campbell – The Border Patrol can cut our fence and we cant do anything about it?
- McCraw – there is a lawsuit ongoing currently and they have been asked to stop doing so
- Hinojosa – Can you spend $1.2 billion in one cycle?
- Raff – Yes we can, in the last 60 day the probability of securing these easements is growing. Biggest problem is getting the land to build on
- Huffman – What is the combination of personnel and resources?
- Banks- The plan is to go to places with infrastructure on both sides of the border. We are putting wall up were we know traffic is. Everywhere the federal government has put walls has seen a decline in illegal immigration. The wall pays for itself & puts traffic in a place that is controllable.
- Huffman – Are we making a difference?
- McCraw – It would be a free-for-all without the barriers we have put in place. So yes, we are making a difference.
- Banks – Migrants are choosing not to got to Texas because of the difficulty now
- Schwertner – Direct deterrents are the most effective way to deter illegal immigration.
- Zaffirini – Any request for technology that haven’t been funded
- Banks – there are proposals but they will brought up at the next legislative session
- Perry – What is your advice to the Governors office to stop illegal immigration?
- Banks – Texas must do everything within the law to stop this problem
- Perry – Assuming the Wednesday vote would implement the bill what would be your opinion?
- Banks – I agree with McCraw we are ready
- Hall -Are you able to detect tunnels?
- Banks- Yes, we have technology to detect tunnels
- Hall – How many miles of wall are needed?
- Banks – Mainly just where we have large cities
- Hall – Don’t you think we need a well defined plan, do we have a plan?
- Banks – I’d love to talk to you about that in office
Larry Smith, Sherrif Smith County – For
- Other states have the same issue with illicit drugs
- We need to stop the smuggling of harmful drugs that are killing our youth
- We use x-ray machines at the border and on interstate highways
Brent Smith, Kinney County Attorney – For
- We used to have hunters, now we don’t because of illegal immigration
- We don’t have a realistic depiction of the number of illegal immigrants
- Thanks to OLS we are able to handle the case load
- Deterrents work, having the wall; is a form of deterrence
- When is Texas going to do something?
Roy Boyd, Goliad County Sheriff – For
- A Border barrier is necessary for Texas to have a layered defense
- In support of SB 6
- Since Biden administration took office arrests are up 400%
- Largest stash site ever found was located in Goliad County
- Kolkhorst – Goliad is not a border county but there was a 400% increase in arrests?
- Boyd – Correct, common crimes being smuggling, drugs, and organizing in criminal activity
- Kolkhorst – Have you had any problem hiring more personnel, what has been the greatest benefit for you?
- Greatest benefit has been personnel received under OLS funding
- Perry – Do you have excess space in your jail cells today?
- Today, I actually do
- Perry – How much is your jail capacity?
- 48 and we are averaging about 30
- Perry – Throughout the state would you say we are at jail capacity?
- Beyond capacity
- Perry – Do you have a large enough DA office to deal with the issue?
- I believe we will be fine
Benny Martinez, Brooks County Sheriff – For
- In the past three years there ahs been over 1 million got aways
- Can’t wait for the federal government to implement an immigration experiment
- Kolkhorst – What is the aftermath of human trafficking in your county?
- Martinez – Since 2009, 959 have been found and for everyone found, 5 are missing
Jaime Puente, Every Texan – Against
- 9 million immigrants in Texas and contribute 20% of the economic output
- Bill will impact negatively immigrant Texans
- Open border rhetoric and attack on federal government exacerbates the problem
- Since 2012 border security funding has increased in Texas
Thaddeus Cleveland, Terrell County Sheriff – For
- It is an immigration issue and trespassing issue
- Each presidential administration has added fencing
- Portions of Big Bend fencing need upgrades
- 37 deaths in the last year
- This a solvable problem and this bill sends a serious message to other countries about our border security
- They are here to take advantage of our systems
- Huges – Is the wall effective?
- Cleveland – Absolutely, illegal immigration and border security are sperate issues
Eric Young, CEO VeriDaaS Corporation – Neutral
- We are a geospatial company, specializing in airborne sensor systems, LIDAR, etc.
- Zaffirini – have you made any proposals to any agencies?
- Young – We have briefed McCraw
- Zaffirini – How many other companies can do this?
- We are the only company that specializes in this technology
- Campbell – How does this differ from what we are investing in already?
- This technology is a bit broader & has more uses. It can be used for disaster preparedness.
- It much higher resolution than maps we have now and cover a larger area
- Hall – How long would it take to map the Texas border?
- Our preliminary analysis is about two weeks assuming good weather.
- Hall – You provide a service not equipment?
- Correct this is a fixed service
- Hall – What kind of information would this get that a drone wouldn’t?
- This allows line of sight analysis which drones cannot do
Roberto Lopez – Texas Civil Rights Project – Against
- There is zero evidence that these funds will deter illegal immigration
- We must take a different approach
- We should lobby for expanding processing by the federal government
- Have witnesses that are immigration experts, not just sheriffs
- Should vote against SB 6
Seline Rodriguez, Texas Public Policy Foundation – For
- Believes in limited government
- Only state government will step up
- Apprehensions at the southern border will continue to increase
- Stand up to the federal government who refuses to do its job
CSSB 6 voted out to full Senate (9-2)