It's the latest in the Lone Star State's continued push to test the limits of the federal government's authority over immigration. The proposed legislation would make it a state felony to cross the border from Mexico illegally, and it would also create a new border police force that could deputize private citizens. As expected, civil rights organizations, open-border advocates, and Democrats have decried the proposal.
Ira Mehlman, media director for the Federation for American Immigration Reform, acknowledges the federal government is responsible for controlling the border. But he argues that in the absence of that happening, Texas has a right to enforce state laws.
"… These border states are being forced to resort to all sorts of things," he continues. "I don't know the legal technicalities of what this Texas force is intended to do [but] obviously once people cross the border, they are in violation of some Texas law – then Texas can act."
According to The Associated Press, a newly created unit of state police would be empowered to arrest, detain, and deter people crossing into Texas illegally; construct more and maintain existing barriers between Texas and Mexico; and return immigrants to Mexico if they are seen crossing into Texas.
AP also reports private citizens employed by the force would be allowed to participate in "unit operations and functions" and have the same criminal and civil liability immunity on the job as the licensed officers. But they would not have arresting power unless trained and authorized by the governor, according to the bill's current form.
Mehlman says it's clear to him that states like Texas have been put in a very difficult situation by the refusal of the federal government to do its job.
"The Biden administration has engaged in sort of creative ways to get people into the country who don't belong here," he tells AFN. "I guess the shoe can be on the other foot and these state governments can start to think of creative ways that they can protect the interests of their people."
Fox example, individuals arrested for crossing into Texas illegally would face up to ten years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines for each violation.