AUSTIN, Texas – Gov. Greg Abbott signed a series of border security bills passed during the 88th session of the Texas Legislature into law.
Abbott signed a package of six bills during a ceremony Thursday at the Texas Capitol aimed at expanding the state’s efforts to combat illegal immigration and drugs coming into Texas from Mexico.
Here are the bills that were signed into law:
- Senate Bill 423 provides Texas military forces the authority to use unmanned aircrafts as part of an operation, exercise, or mission. The bill legalizes the use of drones for search and recovery missions after natural disasters and for monitoring the Texas-Mexico border as part of Operation Lone Star.
- Senate Bill 602 expands the authority of U.S. Border Patrol agents who have completed a DPS training program to include arrest, search, and seizure at established border checkpoints and points of entry for felony offenses under Texas law. Current law only allows agents to detain certain individuals at these locations.
- Senate Bill 1133 creates a grant program to compensate agricultural landowners up to $75,000 for property damage caused by trespassers committing a border crime, such as the smuggling of persons, evading arrest, human trafficking, or a drug offense. Increased migrant traffic and law enforcement activity has left many landowners with significant financial losses and property damage.
- Senate Bill 1403 authorizes the governor to coordinate and execute an interstate compact for border security among interested states without congressional approval. The compact will allow participating states to share law enforcement intelligence and resources for heightened detection and deterrence of illegal border activity and will further protect personnel and property to overcome continued shortcomings of existing federal border policy.
- Senate Bill 1484 creates a collaborative border operations training program through DPS for peace officers employed by local law enforcement agencies along the border. The bill will allow DPS to share expertise in identifying and preventing of transnational criminal activity to local authorities.
- Senate Bill 1900 designates Mexican drug cartels and criminal organizations as foreign terrorist organizations in the state of Texas and increases penalties for the destruction of illegal drugs and the operation of stash houses. This bill also adds foreign terrorist organizations to current intelligence databases and allows local entities to seek public nuisance claims against them. Abbott issued an executive order in September designating Mexican drug cartels as terrorist organizations and has requested President Joe Biden take similar federal action.
Abbott was joined at the press conference by bill authors and sponsors, Texas Dept. of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, Adjutant General of Texas Major General Thomas Suelzer, and other legislators and law enforcement members.
The governor also announced the deployment of new marine floating barriers to deter illegal crossings in hotspots along the Rio Grande River. The strategy will proactively prevent illegal crossings between ports of entry by making it more difficult to cross the Rio Grande and reach the Texas side of the southern border. The first 1,000 feet of the marine floating barrier will be deployed near Eagle Pass.