AUSTIN, Texas - Cracking down on human smugglers and illegal border crossings is a top priority for the special session.
On Monday, members of the Texas House State Affairs committee heard from DPS director Steve McCraw about a recent red flag. Authorities reported having captured several Iranians at the border, notable due to the conflict between Israel and Hamas.
"It's, that's common knowledge, and I think most members are aware, that over the years we've had individuals from special interest countries coming into the United States and apprehended in Texas along Texas-Mexico border, anywhere from Afghanistan to Yemen, including Iraq and Iran as well, Pakistan, Jordan. So, yes," McCraw said.
FOX News, Monday morning, reported four Iranians, two of whom are on a security threat watch list, have been caught on the Texas border this month. The most recent case happened Sunday morning.
During a break in the hearing, McCraw spoke to FOX 7 Austin about the Iranians and if investigators have determined whether any of them were plotting to do something.
"Well, we don't know at this time. Plain and simple," said McCraw.
McCraw urged residents to be vigilant, but also said there is no active threat.
"I think Christopher Wray was very clear, I think that you probably hear that same thing with DHS, where there's no specific or credible threat in Texas, period. Right now, there is threat indicators. Of course, we're always concerned about the threat environment in that regard," said McCraw.
In 2023, 151 individuals on the terrorism watch list were apprehended at the southwest border, according to McCraw.
"There's no way to react other than the fact that clearly the border matters," said McCraw.
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State lawmakers are trying to ramp up border enforcement efforts. Senate Bill 4 would require a minimum prison sentence of 10 years for human smuggling. Those opposed say it targets the wrong offender.
"The overwhelming majority of people that we see arrested for this crime in Texas are U.S. citizens. They're young Texans. The median age is 26. 13% of them are teenagers. So we're talking about a bill that would fill our prisons with young people convicted of a nonviolent offense and sentenced to at least ten years in prison, which is extreme and won't solve the problem," said Bob Libal with Human Rights Watch.
There is no evidence that mandatory minimums deter people from committing the crime, according to Libal.
"I think that what is important is that these are people at the lowest level of these networks, right? They're people who are recruited off of social media. This bill does nothing to undermine the actual criminal organizations that are facilitating this. It doesn't target them at all. It simply is targeting young Texans who make a one-time mistake," said Libal.
There is also a Bill to address undocumented migrants before they reach a vehicle or stash house. SB 11 would allow local authorities to arrest those crossing illegally and charged them with trespassing. Democrats are concern that the Bill does not specifically state that arrests can only happen during the act of an illegal crossing and not anywhere in the state. The border Bills could be sent to the full house for consideration later this week.