In Fourth Special Session, Texas Senate Quickly Passes Two Major Immigration Bills
FAIR Take | November 2023
Last week, during the Legislature’s fourth special session, the Texas Senate passed two major immigration bills, sending them to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
The first bill approved by the Texas Senate, SB 3, appropriates $1.54 for billion to fund “border security operations and the construction, operation, and maintenance of border barrier infrastructure.” Of that amount, the bill authorizes $40 to be used by the Texas Department of Public Safety for operational expenses, including overtime expenses and costs due to an increased law enforcement presence in the Colony Ridge development in Liberty County. The bill prohibits using the money to acquire property through the use of eminent domain or building a barrier between Texas and another U.S. state.
SB 3 passed the Senate by a vote of 18-10.
The second bill approved by the Texas Senate, SB 4, creates a state crime of illegal immigration in Texas. It prohibits the entry of any alien from a foreign nation into Texas except at an official port of entry. The bill provides several exceptions that grant an alien a defense to prosecution. These include that the alien was granted lawful presence, asylum, or DACA by the federal government or that the alien’s conduct does not violate the federal statute prohibiting illegal entry by aliens (8 USC 1325). The first offense is classified as a misdemeanor, a second or subsequent offense is a felony.
Notably, SB 4 is a modified version of legislation passed by the House in October. The previous bill would have allowed state and local law enforcement to order undocumented immigrants to return to their country of origin, whereas SB 4 would give that responsibility to judges. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 17-11.
SB 3 and SB 4 moved through the Texas Senate quickly. Governor Abbott called the fourth special session on November 7—the same day that the third special session ended. Only two days later, both immigration bills had traveled through committees and were passed by the full body.
Identical legislation has been introduced in the Texas House, and on Friday, one House Committee already began consideration of the companion legislation to SB 4.