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Did Republicans Get Everything They Wanted Concerning Border Security and Immigration?

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Ryan E. Poppe
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The 84th Texas legislative session wrapped up this week.  It was hit and miss for some Republicans promising to crack down on border security and immigration.  

On the campaign trail and at the start of the session, statewide elected officials like Lt. Governor Dan Patrick spoke passionately about plans to crack down on border security

And border security is one of the many things Patrick listed as an accomplishment this session.

“We made progress on every issue, the 19-vote rule, first time in history, biggest budget ever for border security and a number of bills in the senate that unfortunately didn’t make it out of the House, but the Senate I think checked off all the boxes,” Patrick recited.

Patrick and other Tea Party Republicans also took aim at killing state programs and local policies that he says are attracting immigrants to Texas.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
New Braunfels Republican Sen. Donna Campbell

  One of those efforts was a repeal of the 2001 state law that allows immigrants to pay in-state tuition rates at state colleges and universities.  But after several attempts, New Braunfels Republican Sen. Donna Campbell could not come up with enough votes on the senate floor.

“We don’t have the dollars to sustain programs for folks that are not citizens. But I think that it takes time to plant a seed that we’re not taking education away. Everyone has the opportunity, it just may cost more,” Campbell said.

She also indicated her office would not ask that the issue be added to the number of issues the Legislature studies when it is not in session.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
Lubbock Republican Sen. Charles Perry

  Another bill that shared the same fate, was by Lubbock Sen. Charles Perry that would’ve prohibited local police departments from adopting sanctuary city style policies when IDing someone who may be in the country illegally.  Perry says during the session, what the bill actually sought to do was lost in translation amongst some of his Republican colleagues.

For Perry, “It’s about rule of law and it’s about transparency equitable treatment for those under the law and citizenship should always trump any status.”

Beyond the $800-million lawmakers budgeted for border security, a bill by Angleton Republican Rep. Dennis Bonnen will use a portion of those funds to hire an additional 250 DPS troopers so that members of the state National Guard and state troopers currently serving on the border can go back to their respective home districts.

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Credit Ryan E. Poppe
Angleton Republican Rep. Dennis Bonnen

“What it really does is recognize that the border is simply the frontline that people are moving through. So it really helps us out to have more troopers for DPS throughout the state,” Bonnen said.

Professor Mark Jones with Rice University’s Baker Institute of Public Policy says even with the defeat of the sanctuary cities and in-state tuition bills, he sees Lt. Gov Patrick’s efforts to fund border security operations as a success.

“Had Patrick actually pushed those through the senate, he would’ve suffered some problems with many of the senators, created animosity and feelings of ill-will in the senate and perhaps jeopardized other initiatives within his body,” Jones explained.

Jones says Speaker Joe Straus would’ve never allow those two bills to make it out of the House, creating even more tensions between Patrick, the Speaker and Governor Greg Abbott, who also never supported the effort to repeal in-state tuition rates for immigrants.