Among the core functions of Texas government is to secure the state’s international border with Mexico. I am pleased to report that I joined with other conservative Texas lawmakers during the regular and first called sessions of the 82nd Texas Legislature in passing strong legislation to give law enforcement officers the tools they need to secure the state’s southern border against illegal immigration, and the social and financial burdens that it engenders.
Prior to the start of the regular session, I was one of 79 state legislators, along with Governor Rick Perry and Comptroller Susan Combs, who signed the conservative legislative agenda of the Texas Conservative Coalition (TCC), called the “Pledge with Texans.” The pledge, which was developed in 2009 and 2010 with significant input and feedback from Texans across the state, was intended to serve as a foundation for conservatives’ long-term goals for Texas. In committing to the pledge, we promised to support and advance all of its planks during the 82nd Texas Legislature. We kept our word, particularly as it relates to securing the border.
The fifth plank of TCC’s Pledge with Texans obligated signers “to advance, support and vote for legislation that lawfully protects Texas and Texans from the fiscal and social costs of illegal immigration.” My fellow pledge signatories and I followed through, passing three significant bills.
In House Bill 1we devoted $87.8 million to fund border and homeland security initiatives. This appropriation includes more than $50 million for capital equipment items such as border security vehicles and fiber optic scopes that will help law enforcement agents secure the 1200-mile border between Texas and Mexico, which presents abundant opportunities for crimes such as trafficking of persons and drugs to occur. Law enforcement efforts along the border have been shown to decrease border crime by one-third in periods of less than a month.
During the first called session, we passed Senate Bill 1, which requires applicants for new, renewal or duplicate driver licenses to prove either U.S. citizenship or legal immigration. This bill also links the expiration of legal immigrants’ driver licenses, provisional licenses or occupational licenses to the expiration date of their legal immigration status. These changes will prevent illegal immigrants from obtaining driver licenses.
Finally, we passed Senate Bill 1009 to amend the Texas Education Code to require public institutions of higher education to notify United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) through its Student Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS) when certain foreign students on certain education visas withdraw or are dismissed from their course of study. In many cases, enrollment in such a course is the basis for a foreign student’s being admitted to the United States. Therefore, it is vital that ICE be aware whenever a foreign student leaves a course, as this may invalidate his visa.
These three measures will help to protect Texas citizens and taxpayers against the social and fiscal costs of illegal immigration. I am proud that my fellow TCC members and I courageously and decisively upheld our pledge to secure Texas’ borders.