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  • Writer's pictureErin Thorn

HB 20 “Border Protection Unit” is Not What Texans Need

Members of the Texas Legislature are trying to manufacture the chaos they claim exists in Texas border communities.

On Wednesday, the Texas House State Affairs Committee heard a slew of bad border bills. This includes House Bill 20. Though they’re pretty much all bad, HB 20 is the worst bill related to the border that we have ever seen filed in the Texas Legislature.

HB 20 would create a Border Protection Unit within the Department of Public Safety, that would be staffed by people who don’t even have the minimum qualifications to be law enforcement officers in Texas – charged with arresting anyone they suspect does not have legal status. We know what this will look like: arresting people in search of a better life, or anyone they assume looks like an immigrant. Basically, anyone not white. HB 20 also gives these people, although they aren’t required to go through the same training and background checks as regular officers, would nevertheless be protected from liability as though they were – insulating them largely from the consequences of their actions.

This Unit would be cloaked in state authority, meaning they’d have the same legal protections as regular officers. People employed by this Unit would be posted in border communities, but could enforce immigration law across the entire State – “in any county.” In a world where HB 20 is law, long-time immigrants in places like Houston or Dallas could find themselves profiled and arrested by State-sponsored vigilante forces.

HB 20 is a grab bag of the absolute worst border policies that the State and federal governments have ever proposed or implemented. As it currently stands, HB 20 does nothing to help border communities, and instead only serves the Governor’s interests - which are to build his political profile by violating federal law in order to play President on federal immigration issues.

Gabriella Mata (TCRP Content Creator), and Kassi Gonzalez, Erin Thorn, Roberto Lopez, and Alexis Bay from TCRP’s Beyond Borders team at the Texas House State Affairs Committee hearing waiting to testify against HB 20.

The Supreme Court already ruled in Arizona v. United States, 567 U.S. 387 (2012), not that long ago, that Texas cannot establish its own policies to enforce immigration law. So, what gives? We don’t even have to guess.

There has long been a concerted effort to bring the question of whether states, cities, and towns have the legal authority to enforce immigration law to the U.S. Supreme Court. Now, Texas leadership thinks they have a winning shot, since the Court recently overturned decades of well-established precedent and ended abortion protections in this country.

Although states have wanted to have their own immigration enforcement agents for a while, Texas now thinks it has the perfect allies in the Supreme Court, and it wants to push the envelope.

But we will continue to fight back against this agenda. This session, we are doing everything we can to ensure that legislators know that Texans and border communities do not need endless money for border militarization efforts. These billions of taxpayer dollars being funneled into alleged “border security” do nothing to address what we desperately need at the border and in the interior of the state like greater investment in education, infrastructure, and health care.

Follow our work at the Texas Legislature and get alerts on the latest actions by subscribing for our Texas Lege email updates here.

Learn more about HB 20 in this one page explainer.


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