AUSTIN, Texas - The immigration reform debate is expected to heat up now that the Texas legislature is back in session. But just before the Session started a state lawmaker from Cedar Park came face to face with the issue.
Representative Tony Dale (R) Cedar Park, is a member of the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee. He's gone on several patrols along the Mexican border. He's also joined other lawmakers in calling on the Federal government to reimburse Texas for recent efforts to secure the border.
"It's always eye opening and I think what's important to understand is it takes a team of not just the state assets but the federal assets to really handle this issue," said Rep. Dale.
This past weekend, Dale was with friends near the town of Encinal, just north of Laredo, on a hunting trip. Saturday, as the day was coming to a close, the hunting party returned to camp and warmed themselves around two small fire pits. A few minutes later, according to Dale, his group got a surprise visit.
"All of a sudden out of the corner of our eyes, look over … someone sort of walked out of the darkness and laid down by the other fire. It was unbelievable," said Dale.
The man was an illegal alien and had traveled to Texas from Guatemala.
"He had been walking for 3 days from Laredo, which is about 40 miles away, without food or any water, he was hypothermic and he was in really bad shape."
The group called Border Patrol and as they waited, the man told them about his journey.
"He had taken 30 days to get from Guatemala to Laredo. He road on the Beast, the train that you hear about, and he paid a coyote $1500 just to get him across the border into Texas, and he was told he'd have food and water on the Texas side and the coyotes did what they frequently do, they abandoned the guy."
The hunters fed their visitor and he shook the cook's hand as he was taken into custody. The number of encounters like the one experienced by Representative Dale has decreased. That's credited mainly to the Border Security Surge which began back in June. But the problem is far from being resolved.
In November FOX7 went the borderland and heard from residents who say they've been over-run by waves of undocumented immigrants. Some, like Mike Vickers, have formed volunteer border patrols.
"This is our home and we are not going to let it run us off," said Vickers in the FOX Special Report.
But there is concern about what will happen if the border surge by state Troopers ends. But conservative state leaders are pushing legislation to increase the surge not end it. As well as eliminate controversial programs like in-state tuition for illegal immigrant children. Representative Dale supports those efforts, saying his encounter in south Texas has not changed his mind.
"But I've always believed that our federal policies as related to the border, in particular, are essentially immoral, because this man put his life in jeopardy assuming he'd get across safely, and it's our open border polices, catch and release policies that our federal government has to entice these people across."
Representative Dale has introduced his one immigration enforcement bill. The legislation builds off the governor's earlier executive order requiring state agencies and businesses that get state contracts to screen all employees through the e-verify system.