Editor’s Note: This month many new laws passed during the 2015 legislative session are taking effect. Over the coming weeks, Rep. J.D. Sheffield will provide an overview of these new laws through a short series on The Flash. This second article addresses new state laws that were passed during the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature. He hopes that you find these helpful and informative.
This is my second column on new state laws that were passed during the 2015 session of the Texas Legislature. My first column addressed the conservative new state budget. This week, I invite your attention to the state’s new border security plan, which represents a major long-term effort to secure the Texas-Mexico border.
Security along the entire U.S.-Mexico border has been a problem for years. We especially know this to be the case in Texas. Our state is among the most affected by border problems, including illegal border crossings and criminal operations. Our office learned first-hand about these problems on a tour of the border region last year.
Unfortunately the politicians in Washington, D.C., have shown little to no interest in addressing this federal problem. The Obama Administration has all but ignored the continued flow of undocumented immigrants into the United States, despite the risk to national security. As a result, conditions along the border have deteriorated. Human smugglers and criminal elements have been given far too much room to operate along our nation’s border.
Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature took a major step toward combatting the problems along our state’s border with Mexico. Because Washington has failed in its responsibility to secure the U.S. border, we enacted a long-term strategy to secure the Texas-Mexico border and increased the budget for border security operations by $800 million.
House Bill 11 directs the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to hire an additional 250 state troopers to be stationed along the border. This bill also toughens penalties for border crimes, including smuggling, and requires the DPS to establish southbound checkpoints on international bridges to search for weapons, contraband and bulk cash.
This bill also establishes a Transnational Intelligence Center on the border, which will analyze crime data and serve as an important intelligence-sharing hub for state and local law enforcement agencies. I am pleased to share that our office was among the many co-authors of this important legislation. It was signed into law by Governor Abbott and took effect in September.
Other new laws that will also help to improve border security in Texas include Senate Bill 374, which requires state agencies and universities to use the E-Verify system to prevent hiring those in the country illegally. House Bill 12 establishes a Border Prosecution Unit to improve border crime investigations and prosecutions.
We should continue to push Washington to do its job and secure the border. Until it does, we must stand in the gap and do the important work of combatting illegal immigration and keeping Texas families and communities safe from border crime. Our work can serve as a model to other states and to Washington that real border security requires more manpower, tougher criminal penalties, more intelligence gathering and sharing, more funding, and a renewed commitment to national security.
If you have any questions or if I can be of service to you, please contact our office at (512) 463-0628.
Rep. J.D. Sheffield is a family physician and Republican member of the Texas House, serving his second term representing District 59.