What will it take to make our borders safer?
Legislators from both sides of the aisle think they have a solution with HB 10, 11, 12. They say this isn't about getting in the middle of battle over immigration but rather fighting the war on drugs, murder, and human trafficking.
More than forty Texas State Representatives were on hand for the announcement, led by Rep. Dennis Bonnen who first addressed the crowd.
"We're here today not by choice but by necessity. Border security remains Washington's responsibility but it is Texas that pays the price for their inaction," he said.
It's that inaction those Representatives say, that's prompting them to join forces to stop border crimes from seeping into local communities.
"Crime that comes to the border rarely stays at the border," says Bonnen, "It finds it's way into communities across Texas and around the nation where human beings are exploited for profit and lives are ruined by drug addiction."
The group hopes to battle that by filing the three bills in tandem.
Right now, Bonnen says it costs the state more than $200 million to incarcerate criminals arrested at the border and he adds, passing the three bills could eliminate that burden from Texas taxpayers. "What were trying to do now is for the first time have an intelligent thoughtful and consistent strategy to help secure Texas.:
Here's a rundown of the bills:
HB 10 is designed to combat human trafficking. Amongst other things it will:
- Create a child sex trafficking prevention unit under Governor Abbott's office
- Make the criminal statute of limitations longer for prostitution of minors
- Require human trafficking training
- Shore up the border with more state officers
- Create a 24/7 multi-agency crime data center
- Put retired DPS officers to work to assist at the border and across the state
HB 12 will help to get criminals behind bars by:
- Creating a border prosecution unit
- An independent group that supports District Attorney's across the border
- Screen cases, get indictments and help to prosecute criminals
State Representative Oscar Longoria is sponsoring HB 12. He explains that it "makes sure our prosecutors will have the resources they need to make sure those who enslave, exploit and endanger our fellow humans are being put behind bars where they belong."
There aren't any hard number about how much these programs will cost the state. But legislators say they do plan on asking the Federal Government for some reimbursement.
Unrelated to Monday's announcement, The Texas Department of Public Safety is already stepping up their efforts to secure the border. On Thursday they started recruiting officers for a training program where graduates would be assigned to that region.