Throughout my time as your state representative, the crisis at Texas’ southern border has been a top priority issue for most of my constituents in House District 60. Since Joe Biden took office in January of 2021, over two million illegal immigrants have crossed the Texas-Mexico Border. For comparison, during the first year of the Trump Administration, that number was only 300,000 ─ the lowest since 1972.
Data reported by the Department of Public Safety, the Texas Military Department, and Federal Immigration Services across the four sectors of the Texas-Mexico Border (Rio Grande, Laredo, Big Bend, and El Paso), shows illegal immigration is up from 118% to 256%. With record numbers of illegal immigrants crossing the southern border, the questions on many people’s minds are: “Where are they coming from? What are they doing? What is Texas doing to address the crisis?”
There is a misconception that most illegal immigrants originate in Mexico; however, the truth is that Mexico is only an entry point into the United States for migrants from all across the globe. More than 66% of all illegal immigrants originate from outside of Mexico. As a result of policies from the Biden Administration, countries that have historically small numbers of illegal immigration are now crossing the Texas-Mexico border in record numbers.
Despite unmistakable evidence of the southern border crisis, many in the media continue to downplay the severity of the situation. The mainstream media often claims the majority of illegal immigrants are unaccompanied minors; however, those claims could not be farther from the truth. On the contrary, the vast majority of migrant crossings are single adults, with unaccompanied children and family units making up less than one-third of illegal immigrants. More than 25% of illegal immigrants are also repeat offenders, meaning they have crossed the southern border more than once, up from 7% in 2020.
As the crisis at the border enters its second year, Texas has had to step up to the challenge with little support from Washington, D.C. Currently, Governor Abbott’s Operation Lone Star has been effective in fighting back against illegal immigration, criminal activity, and drug and human trafficking. As of January, there have been close to 1.3 million apprehensions by Texas Law Enforcement for referrals, misdemeanors, felonies, and federal charges. At the same time, Texas officials have seized over 1,140 pounds of fentanyl (enough for almost 260 million lethal doses), 203 pounds of heroin, 3,511 pounds of cocaine, 13,000 pounds of methamphetamine, and 27,310 pounds of marijuana. Lone Star agents have also seized over 3,000 firearms and $26,000,000 of United States currency.
During the second special session, the 87th Texas Legislature approved House Bill 9, which provides assistance to the Governor, the Department of Public Safety, and the Texas Military Department. HB 9 allocates an additional $1.88 billion to border security, which includes $750 million to help fund the border wall started by President Trump, equip Texas police officers, and reimburse counties for apprehensions. This will be done while respecting landowners’ rights by avoiding expansion of eminent domain. House Bill 9 is in addition to the $1.05 billion added in the Texas State Budget (Senate Bill 1) passed this spring ─ tripling the total amount spent on border security in the previous biennium.
After taking a trip to the border just before Christmas to survey the situation and deliver small gifts, I received a letter from a member of the Texas National Guard. The letter discussed in detail his concerns, seen firsthand, about the escalating border crisis. This man has been serving on the border away from his family. The letter further opened my eyes to the tremendous human costs created by federal inaction in addressing the border crisis. Day in and day out, members of our Texas military and law enforcement are working to keep our state safe. Many of these young men and women have spent considerable time away from their families, with some spending Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Years on the Rio Grande, instead of at home. The brave soldiers and civilians who are proudly serving our state often do so out of duty to service ─ for little pay. While the Texas National Guard is mobilized by the Governor, they cannot receive certain federal compensation, such as accruement to federal benefits, health insurance, or retirement. Next session, I will file legislation to create a program that offsets what our men and women on the border lose from being mobilized by the state.
The issue of illegal immigration at our southern border was an issue long before President Biden took office. Since I was a child, there have been debates on both sides of the aisle about how to facilitate legitimate access for those seeking to have a better life, while maintaining a tough stance on crime. Immigrants from all nationalities play a significant role in shaping the Texas and U.S. economy, and our state should be a beacon of economic liberty and second chances.
Immigrants seeking a better life in our country must make sure to come in through the gate, and not over the fence. Not only does the border crisis put communities at risk, but immigrants also put themselves at substantially greater risk of being killed, abused, or trafficked as well.
We must completely secure our southern border and develop a commonsense immigration policy that is fair, safe, timely and legal for good people seeking a better life.