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Texas Lawmakers Talk Border Security Ahead Of Legislative Session

Evan Smith, Lyle Larson and Jose Menendez speak at a panel discussion Wednesday.

At a panel discussion hosted by the Texas Tribune Wednesday, state lawmakers sounded off on issues that are likely to come up in the 2017 legislative session—among them: border security.

Last month, the Texas Department of Public Safety requested $1.1 billion for border security over the next two years. Last budget, DPS received $800 million, and State Senator Jose Menendez isn’t sure it’s been well spent.

The San Antonio Democrat says DPS hasn’t presented adequate data, and he says people who live near the border have told him they have concerns about the state’s presence.  

“What they see is a DPS officer parked every half mile—like a row of DPS officers,” said Menendez. “Those officers are doing what they’re asked to do, and DPS is saying, ‘well we’ve got $800 million, we’ve got to spend it,’ I guess. But how does that somehow improve the border security?”

DPS says it would use the funds to double its number of troopers along the border to 500 and purchase some new technology. Republican State Representative Lyle Larson says Texas needs to put up more money if it wants to properly train troopers to police the border.

“Before we had this training, we had DPS officers that didn’t have the training, and they were just pulling people over and giving a lot of tickets in the Valley,” said Larson. People were saying, 'I'm not the issue, I'm not the focus. I think we have more of a laser focus.”

The Lone Star State’s border security effort is already larger than any other. The proposed funding increase comes as state leaders ask agencies to trim spending due to declining oil prices.

The two state lawmakers from San Antonio also discussed K-12 school funding and choice, Medicaid expansion, water issues and more. The 2017 legislative session begins January 10.