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Abbott signs border security bills, including designating cartels as terrorists

In just two legislative sessions, Abbott said, Texas has spent nearly $10 billion “to deal with the crisis and chaos caused by the Biden administration.”

Published: June 8, 2023 11:00pm

(The Center Square) -

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed six border bills into law on Thursday that range from designating cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations, to creating an interstate compact, to expanding resources for law enforcement.

“Washington, D.C. has failed to do its job to secure our border. As a result, Texas has had to take unprecedented steps in responding to the crisis created by the Biden administration. The Texas legislature has stepped up,” the governor said, by allocating $5.1 billion to the state’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star. Last session, they allocated $4.5 billion.

In just two legislative sessions, Abbott said, Texas has spent nearly $10 billion “to deal with the crisis and chaos caused by the Biden administration.”

He said OLS has successfully blocked illegal entry to Texas using miles of concertina wire as border barriers supplemented by Texas Military Department and DPS officers. These strategies have “directly stopped people from entering Texas illegally,” he said.

“Even though we’ve done a lot, we recognize more must be done,” he said, including the six bills the legislature passed with bipartisan support. More border security bills are expected to be called as part of a special legislative session, the governor has said, but only after the legislature agrees on how to provide $18 billion in property tax relief. The legislature remains at an impasse on the issue.

Abbott first signed SB 1900 into law, which designates Mexican cartels as Foreign Terrorist Organizations. It builds on an executive order the governor issued last September to designate cartels as FTOs under state law. The designation allows law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue higher penalties for crimes, including those related to delivering controlled substances or drugs or operating a stash house. It also allows FTOs to be added to law enforcement agency intelligence databases and local entities to seek public nuisance claims against FTOs operating in their communities.

He next signed SB 1484 into law. It creates a force multiplier by authorizing the Texas Department of Public Safety to train local law enforcement officials “on cartel related activity as well as the best tactics to train on border crimes,” Abbott said. It requires DPS to identify ways that local law enforcement can assist DPS to secure the border and expands collaborative efforts through Texas’ border security mission, Operation Lone Star.

Abbott then signed SB 423 into law authorizing the Texas Military Department to use drones to secure the border.

“They’ve been authorized to use them for various purposes but we wanted to make sure it’s crystal clear” they can do so to secure the border, the governor said.

He also signed SB 1403 into law authorizing the governor to develop and execute an interstate compact for border security among interested states that doesn’t require approval of Congress.

He also signed SB 1133, which authorizes the creation of a grant program to compensate certain property owners for damages caused by criminal activities on agricultural land. It allows “farmers and ranchers in border and rural counties much-needed relief from the damages caused by trafficking, smuggling, and bail-outs on their personal property,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. César Blanco, D-El Paso, said prior to the bill passing.

The law allows Texas ranchers to receive up to $75,000 in reimbursement for damages per incident through the program.

Lastly, he signed SB 602 to authorize U.S. Border Patrol agents to arrest people for committing Texas crimes.

“A request was made to the state of Texas by Border Patrol,” Abbott said. The bill provides that authorization, “giving them more tools to secure the border, powers of arrest and search and seizure for any felony offense under Texas law if the arrest, search or seizure is incident to a containment under federal law and occurs at a port of entry or at a Border Patrol check point,” he said.

According to data from the governor’s office, since OLS was launched in April 2021, law enforcement officers have arrested over 29,000 criminals including people wanted for murder. They’ve also pushed back over 40,000 foreign nationals who’ve tried to enter Texas illegally and seized enough fentanyl to kill more than everyone in the entire United States.