Hundreds of miles away from the Texas-Mexico border in Fort Worth, Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday signed a nearly $2 billion border security bill.
The $1.8 billion allocated for border security efforts is in addition to more than $1 billion set aside during the regular legislative session that ended in May. The latest allotment was passed during a second special session that ended earlier this month.
“Let me explain to you why we are making this announcement in Fort Worth,” Abbott said at the Fort Worth Police Officers Association Headquarters. “We need to understand and make clear that the challenges that you see on the border do not stay on the border. They go to every community in the state of Texas. In fact, go to communities across every state in the United States.”
Abbott has made stops in Fort Worth in the past where he’s attributed an increasing use of fentanyl, an opioid, to President Joe Biden’s border policies. He again discussed the effect of the drug on communities like Fort Worth during the Friday news conference. In attendance was Fort Worth Police Officers Association President Manny Ramirez, who said there’s been an increase in drug overdoses and overdose deaths locally. There’s also been an “exponential increase” in fentanyl cases, he said.
”The drugs scare me. The weapons scare me. The human smuggling rips at my heart, and it is a darn shame that the federal government isn’t doing its job,” said State Sen. Jane Nelson, a Flower Mound Republican who chairs the Senate Finance committee.
Abbott has clashed with the Biden administration over its immigration policy. On Friday, he reiterated his position that the Biden administration has failed at border security.
“So Texas is stepping up and doing what the federal government is supposed to do,” Abbott said.
What does the bill fund?
The latest allotment includes nearly $155 million to the Texas Department of Public Safety for law enforcement efforts, such as roughly $134 million to Abbott’s Operation Lone Star launched in early March. The operation tasks the department and the Texas National Guard with combating the smuggling of people and drugs across the Texas-Mexico border. The bill also allocates $301 million to the Texas Military Department.
The bill allocates $1 billion for physical border barriers. According to an Abbott spokesperson, $250 million of that would reimburse the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for a “down payment” for a border wall.
Abbott announced in June the state would build a barrier on its southern border. He also said DPS would “arrest anyone who enters our state illegally and is found trespassing, engaged in vandalism, criminal mischief or smuggling.” The state signed a contract on Thursday with companies to oversee construction of the wall, Abbott said.
The legislation also includes $274 million for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, $32.5 million for court administration costs and $16.4 million to Texas Department of State Health Services for ambulance services.
On Thursday the governor said he was directing the Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to close six points of entry along the Southern border, but then issued a subsequent statement saying the Biden administration had “flip-flopped.” The back-and-forth came as of thousands of mostly Haitian immigrants gathered under an international bridge in Del Rio waiting to be processed for entry into the U.S., according to The Texas Tribune.
“Six hours after U.S. Customs and Border Protection requested help from Texas to close ports of entry and secure the border, the Biden Administration has now flip-flopped to a different strategy that abandons border security and instead makes it easier for people to cross illegally and for cartels to exploit the border,” Abbott said.
A Department of Homeland Security spokesperson told KXAN, an Austin TV station, the department isn’t seeking assistance from Texas to close ports of entry, and that it’d be a violation of federal law for the Texas National Guard to unilaterally do so.
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick criticized for anti-immigrant rhetoric
Abbott’s signing of the bill comes after Lt. Gov Dan Patrick on Thursday on Fox News decried a “silent revolution by the Democrat Party and Joe Biden to take over this country.” In the interview, he cast migrants crossing the Texas-Mexico border as an “invasion.” He called on Republican states to “tell the president that we are being invaded.” Patrick asserted that once immigrants become citizens and have children, there will be millions of new voters who support Democrats.
“This is not authorized by the state of Texas,” said Patrick during the interview. He was also at the Friday news conference. “It’s not welcomed by the state of Texas or any other Republican state that I know, and they’re not invited.”
His remarks drew comparisons to “The Great Replacement Theory”, including in a Washington Post opinion article and by labor federation Texas AFL-CIO. The theory, that began in 20th century France and was popularized by French writer Renaud Camus in 2011, purports that the white population is being replaced by non-European immigrants, according to the Counter Extremism Project.
“The El Paso shootings and other violent episodes point up how dangerous it is to mark new Latino and Black immigrants, who cannot vote, as partisan political enemies,” Texas AFL-CIO President Rick Levy said in a statement.
Rep. Chris Turner, a Grand Prairie Republican who chairs the House Democratic Caucus, called the remarks vile and dangerous in a Friday tweet.
“I thought I could no longer be shocked by anything (Dan Patrick) says, but I was wrong,” Turner said. “These comments are not only vile, they are incendiary and dangerous. Leaders have a responsibility to not incite with their words & actions - Patrick fails that test, again.”