Texas House debates bill that would allow state to punish, remove undocumented immigrants

It is currently not a state crime to enter Texas illegally, but a controversial new bill would change that and allow for the immediate arrest of those who do.

Under a new bill, filed in the Texas House any peace officer in the state would have the power to drive an undocumented person to a border port of entry and order them to leave the country.

If they refused, they could face strict legal consequences.

"House Bill 4 is a landmark bill that allows Texans to protect Texans and to send illegal immigrants back and to prosecute and incarcerate those who refuse to leave," said State Rep. Charles Spiller (R-Jacksboro).

The bill creates new criminal law and is the house version of Senate Bill 11, which would make it a crime punishable by a year in jail to be here illegally.

The House Bill goes farther, making it a Class B Misdemeanor to be here illegally, but could increase to a felony if someone refuses to leave the state.

Peace officers would be able to arrest someone or drive them to a border port of entry.

Local governments would have to secure law enforcement from legal liability.

"We see House Bill 4 as a good bill a constitutional bill and a bill that ought to be enacted into law," said Chuck DeVore with the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Others disagree, saying the liability this bill would transfer to counties would be overwhelming.

"Not only for the incarceration and the holding, but also adjudication, the probation and all the things that go along with creating a new offense, and that new offense falls directly on counties - not the state," said Adam Haynes from the Conference of Urban Counties.

State Rep. Victoria Neave Criado (D-Dallas) questioned whether Texas can remove people here illegally,

[CRIADO: "Are we concerned about lawsuits and perhaps not only violation of the federal constitution, but our Texas constitution as well?"]

"They're not transported out of the state. They're taken to a U.S. port of entry, and they are ordered to go back," replied Rep. Spiller.

If they refuse, they could face prosecution with a possible penalty if convicted of 2 to 20 years in prison.


"If someone is present in this state, anywhere in this state, unlawfully they could be arrested under this bill," said State Rep. Chris Turner (D-Tarrant County).

Spiller says that while there is nothing in the bill stopping people already in the state illegally from being arrested it is not the true purpose of the bill.

"The purpose is to stop what's going on at the border. The purpose is not to incarcerate everyone that may be here illegally," said Rep. Spiller.

The measure is expected to easily pass out of committee.

The Senate has a similar proposal that would penalize anyone caught without proper documentation to one year in jail.