Texas Republicans aren’t giving up on a bill that would give a civilian-led task force the authority to “arrest, apprehend or detain persons crossing the Texas-Mexico border unlawfully.”
Rep. Matt Schaefer and other conservative lawmakers introduced House Bill 20 to establish the new “Border Protection Unit,” but were able to stop the legislation from going anywhere. Republicans, however, returned with House Bill 7, which borrowed the same language from the prior bill and now calls the militia it is attempting to create a “Texas Border Force.”
Critics of the proposed bill liken it to a vigilante group that will give citizens unchecked power, which many believe will result in the deaths of migrants. “The dangerous, radical and unconstitutional proposal which empowers border vigilantes to hunt migrants and racially profile Latinos is going to result in the death of innocent people,” read a statement from the Mexican American Legislative Caucus of the TX House of Representatives.
Schaefer, who is using the fentanyl crisis in the U.S. to defend the need for the border force, said the unit would “be an organization of professional men and women hired/trained under the authority of the Dept of Public Safety to protect Texans. Many will be licensed peace officers, others trained and specifically authorized by the Governor to make lawful arrests.”
Bernardo Cruz, an attorney for the Texas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), told the Guardian that the HB7 was “an unlawful action or exercise by the state government. We are really afraid it’s going to lead to more racial profiling of current migrants, and also that it affects everyone who lives across the border and the states.”
Rochelle Garza, president of the Texas Civil Rights Project, told the Dallas Morning News: “Not only does this bill mobilize a new military force under the governor, it also allows the head of the force to deputize almost anyone to enforce federal immigration law, including vigilante groups that have targeted Texas border communities.”