The Texas Senate approved House Bill 9 on Tuesday to allocate $1.88 billion toward border security, a move that nearly triples state spending after already approving $1.05 billion earlier this year, The Texas Tribune reported.
Building the border wall along the U.S.-Mexico border — after former President Donald Trump's border wall construction was halted by President Joe Biden — is among the border security initiatives.
The Senate passed the bill 23-8, and proponents denounced the Biden administration's lack of action to secure the southern border as necessitating the massive spending package.
"The situation at our border is a failure of federal leadership and an entirely avoidable disaster,'' according to state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, to the Tribune.
"For months, we have heard about the horrors faced by those making their journey north, about crime and drugs pouring into our communities, about human trafficking, and the spread of [COVID-19]. We have pleaded with the federal government to act, and they are not listening."
Texas GOP Gov. Greg Abbott, who is seeking reelection for a third term next year, has led the charge in securing state funds for border security that is no longer being provided by the Biden administration.
He launched Operation Lone Star in March to deploy military and police to aid local and federal authorities in rooting out human and drug trafficking into Texas, and declared a June disaster emergency in 34 counties hit by large increases in illegal border crossings, the Tribune reported.
Tuesday's spending measure approved by the Senate gives Abbott more than $1 billion, including about $750 million for border wall construction. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice already transfered $250 million from its budget in June as a "down payment" for the border wall, according to the Tribune.
Abbott's office called the funding a "reasonable place to start," noting there might be more needed for wall construction down the road.
An online crowdfunding campaign also provided $54 million in private donations for the wall, according to the report.
Senate Democrats in opposition claimed there is a better way to fund a secure southern border in Texas.
"From my perspective, we're rushing too quickly to do a very archaic way of doing border security where we're sending boots on the ground and physical barriers when we have the technology we have," state Sen. César J. Blanco, D-El Paso, said on the Senate floor, the Tribune reported.
El Paso is the Texas region Republicans panned Vice President Kamala Harris for visiting, saying its border migration issues pale in comparison to the Rio Grande Valley near McAllen, Texas.
There are Texas Senate Democrats supportive of a border wall because of their constituencies, including state Sens. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, and Juan Hinojosa, D-McAllen.
"I have talked to many of my constituents in Cameron and Hidalgo County," Lucio told the Tribune, "and I can tell you the vast majority of those people want border security and want the wall, believe it or not."
Among the other spending items in the bill, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice will be reimbursed for its down payment and will be funded to convert three state detention centers into migrant detention facilities.
Also, the Texas Military Department will receive $311 million for its 2,500 Texas National Guard soldiers deployed to the border, and the Texas Department of Public Safety will receive $154.8 million for 79 special operations troopers at the border and to cover overtime for border security, according to the report.
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