SENATORS DEMAND BETTER BORDER SECURITY
|Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands is joined by his colleagues in calling for the federal government to drastically improve security along the Texas-Mexico border. From left to right, Senator Florence Shapiro of Plano, Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr. of Brownsville, Williams, Senator Kel Seliger of Amarillo, Senator Joan Huffman of Southside Place, Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls and Senator Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio.|
(AUSTIN) — A group of Senators has called on the federal government to increase security along the border with Mexico. At a Thursday press conference, Senator Tommy Williams of the Woodlands and seven other senators announced the filing of a resolution that would send a delegation to Washington to secure more funding and more personnel to keep violence from spilling across the Rio Grande. The resolution also requests an analysis to show how much fully funding border security in Texas would cost. "We want Congress to secure our borders from the drug cartels and the people that are involved in human smuggling and all of the terrible things that are going on in our border region," he said.
According to Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw, an insecure border with Mexico is the number one public safety and homeland security threat to Texas and the U.S., saying drug cartels send billions of dollars worth of drugs north to the U.S. in return for weapons and cash. The cartel war in Mexico has lead to 34,000 murders south of the border, according to McCraw, more than seventy of whom were American nationals. He said cartels store both money and guns in Texas for use back in Mexico.
Beyond the threat of drug violence, international terrorists could be using the pourous border to get into the U.S., said McCraw. Nearly 300 "special interest aliens", citizens of countries known to harbor Islamic terrorists, have been apprehended along the border.
Though Texas hasn't seen the level of violence of Northern Mexico, Williams said crime related to illegal immigration has a serious impact in the state. He said there are more than 12,000 individuals in Texas jails for crimes committed while they were in the country illegally. "We're incarcerating those folks," he said, "and it's costing about $200 million a year to have those people in jail." Williams said the Transportation and Homeland Security Committee, which he chairs, will bring up his resolution as well as the omnibus homeland security bill at its meeting next week.
Also Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee approved recommendations from a subcommittee related to public education finance. The subcommittee, chaired by Plano Senator Florence Shapiro, would increase funding to public education by $5.7 billion over the original proposed budget. It includes money for textbooks and instructional materials, and Shapiro said the recommendations will keep money in the classroom and will further the goals of school accountability and college readiness. She did warn, however, that the recommendations adopted today will not be the final budget for public education in Texas. "This is not a final document. It puts the structure in place, and we have to be able to work in that structure in order to have a school finance bill that we will be able to pass," said Shapiro.
The Senate will reconvene Monday, March 28, at 1:30 p.m.