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Texas House & Senate poised to quickly pass identical border security bills

Border security back on agenda for 4th Special Session
Border security back on agenda for 4th Special Session 02:45

AUSTIN ( — During the fourth special session at the Texas Capitol, lawmakers in the House and Senate are poised to quickly pass identical border security bills.

On Thursday afternoon, committees in both chambers approved HB 4 and SB 4, which would make it a state crime if a migrant crosses into Texas illegally.

The full Senate passed the measure Thursday night, and the full House is expected to do the same within a week.

Governor Greg Abbott placed this issue on the agenda on Tuesday after both chambers were not on the same page and passed different legislation during the third special session.

In an interview Thursday morning, the author of the House bill, Representative David Spiller (R-Jacksboro) told CBS News Texas, "I'm optimistic that we can get something done that both chambers can agree to, and that we can get on the governor's desk very quickly."

Spiller said he and the Senate's author, Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), updated the legislation to address a concern by Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick.

Under this version, when a migrant is detained after crossing illegally into Texas, they would be fingerprinted, photographed and have their background checked against the terror watch list.

"We don't want a terrorist to get away, we thought that we had sufficiently provided for that in the previous bill, but you know we have strengthened that," Spiller said.

On Thursday, Spiller introduced his bill to the House State Affairs Committee. "We still have a crisis at our southern border."

Spiller said that under the measure, it's a class B misdemeanor when a migrant crosses into Texas illegally, instead of going to a legal port of entry to request asylum.

If detained by a state law enforcement officer, the person would be brought to a state or county judge, be given a lawyer, and under certain circumstances, would be able to voluntarily return to their country and be escorted by authorities to the border or would be prosecuted and after their sentence, be ordered to return to their country.

During the House hearing, opponents criticized the measure, including Rev. Erin Walter, the executive director of the Texas Unitarian Universalist Justice Ministry.

She told the hearing, "Our people do not want increased policing and incarceration. My God of love and peace does not want increased policing, incarceration and discrimination."

Spiller said he expects opponents will challenge the state law, citing historical precedent that immigration is a federal issue. "I believe that what we've done here under House Bill 4 is completely constitutional. It is not in conflict with federal law. As a matter of fact, it is right in line with the federal law that has been in place for decades."

The House and Senate have also filed identical bills on another border security bill.

House Bill 3/Senate Bill 3 would provide an additional $1.5 billion for the state to expand its border wall.

The Senate passed the measure Thursday afternoon.

The House Appropriations Committee will consider the legislation Friday morning.

Eye on Politics: One-on-One with TX Rep. David Spiller 15:42
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