Checkpoints, More Troopers in Sweeping Texas Border Bill

New highway checkpoints and putting retired police officers on duty are part of a sweeping Texas border security bill that Republicans on Monday said would ramp up enforcement as promised under new Gov. Greg Abbott.

The House proposal is the most comprehensive border security plan so far through two months of the new Legislature and closely tracks with priorities outlined by Abbott. The bill drew a mostly wait-and-see reaction from Democrats who worry about tougher immigration measures coming down the pike.

But for now they signaled unease with language that would make it a felony to "encourage" or "induce" someone to remain in the country with permission. Some wondered whether that could mean advocacy groups helping immigrants who are in the U.S. illegally, or individuals who unknowingly hire an unauthorized nanny.

"We just need to make sure the definitions of the bill are tightened," Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchia said.

Republican state Rep. Dennis Bonnen said such scenarios were not the point. Repeating the mantra among Texas conservatives for nearly a decade, Bonnen said his lengthy bill was necessary to address the shortage of resources and money from Washington.

"Texas must continue to stand in the gap," Bonnen said.

The bill also calls on the state to examine whether Texas can partner with the federal government to create more checkpoints for Mexico-bound traffic near the border, and leaves the door open for a private company to operate the checkpoint. A new headquarters in the Rio Grande Valley for local law enforcement would also be established.

One big emphasis of the bill is sending state troopers who were temporarily deployed to the Rio Grande Valley from far-flung places such as Amarillo or Lubbock back home. The plan fast-tracks the hiring of new troopers, establishes 50-hour work weeks for some and creates a reserve corps of retired Texas Department of Public Safety officers available for call-up.

Hiring hundreds of additional state troopers is a critical piece of Abbott's border security agenda -- mostly because he says the National Guard can't leave the Texas-Mexico border until that happens.

Abbott has said an undisclosed number of National Guard troops will stay in the Rio Grande until the state hires hundreds more state law enforcement officers to replace them. That would take more than a year under current standards for trooper recruiting and training.

A recent DPS report to lawmakers said additional, temporary forces sent to the border under Perry had "limitations" and reduced the agency's ability to patrol and investigate crimes elsewhere in Texas.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us