Earlier today, the Texas Senate’s Committee on Border Security, chaired by Senator Brian Birdwell (R-Granbury) held a hearing on H.B. 4 by Representative David Spiller (R-Jacksboro), which passed the Texas House last week after vigorous debate.
H.B. 4 as passed by the Texas House creates a new state crime for illegal entry into Texas from a foreign nation and authorizes peace officers to return illegal aliens to ports of entry with order to self-deport in lieu of arrest and prosecution. Despite several safe harbors amended into the bill on the House floor, this legislation was an important step to deterring illegal border crossings and giving Texas law enforcement officials legal tools to step into the gap left by the Biden administration’s refusal to enforce federal immigration law.
The committee substitute laid out by Chairman Birdwell, however, appears to be significantly weaker than the version of H.B. 4 passed by the house. During the hearing, he stated that the provision allowing peace officers to take illegal aliens to ports of entry with orders to self-deport was removed. The criminal penalty for illegal entry from a foreign nation was reduced from a Class A misdemeanor in the House version to the Class B misdemeanor. Finally, there was a probable cause clause added that would essentially render the law unenforceable outside of the immediate vicinity of the Rio Grande.
These changes would significantly hamper the deterrent effect intended by the bill author. After serving time upon conviction, illegal aliens would be turned over to Department of Homeland Security officials, who normally begin expedited deportation proceedings for criminal aliens. However, it is an open question whether or not Biden’s DHS would consider conviction under this statute as grounds for deportation, and it is likely that these illegal aliens would be given an opportunity to make an asylum claim and be released into the interior of the country on their own recognizance.
The Biden administration’s refusal to enforce our laws amidst the cartel-orchestrated invasion of the Texas border necessitates decisive leadership from our elected officials. Simply stated, H.B. 4 as substituted will not get the job done. In the regular session and in our coalition letter before the special session call, we asked for Texas law enforcement officials to be granted the statutory authority to repel illegal crossings and remove apprehended illegal aliens from the state. As H.B. 4 proceeds to the Senate floor, we ask for our leaders to strengthen this legislation and deliver on their campaign promises to secure the Texas Border.