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Does Texas need an anti-migrant border militia?

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Texas Department of Public Safety gunboats in the Rio Grande
David Martin Davies
Texas Department of Public Safety gunboats in the Rio Grande

Claiming that the Texas Mexico border is "wide open" and that all Texans are therefore in "immediate danger," the Texas legislature is considering House Bill 20 by Matt Schaefer (R-Tyler). HB 20 would create and fund the Border Protection Unit that would have the authority to apprehend, detain and deport people who are in the county without authorization.

Critics of the proposal say it would create an anti-migrant vigilante militia who would terrorize the border region including citizens and legal residents who might appear to be from Mexico.

Under the proposed law, members of the Border Protection Unit would be responsible for facilitating the building and maintenance of the border wall, deterring or repelling illegal aliens in the event of an invasion, and returning illegal aliens to Mexico when they cross illegally during a declared invasion.

According to Human Rights Watch which testified against the bill, HB 20 would allow the administration to deputize any “law-abiding” citizen to serve in the unit. And people serving in the unit would be granted criminal and civil immunity against claims of wrongdoing.

HB 20 would also claim authority for Texas to deny entry on specious public health grounds similar to the controversial US federal policy called Title 42 that was invoked during the Covid-19 pandemic and is still in place.

The bill would create a third-degree felony charge of criminal trespass with a minimum $10,000 fine and would further fund the Texas border wall.

A companion bill, HB 7, would create a “border protection” court and criminal system that critics say would institutionalize the separate and unequal system of arresting, jailing, and prosecuting people along the border.

Supporters of both bills say they are needed because of the flow of fentanyl into Texas from Mexico and that Texas is being "invaded" by migrants and asylum seekers who are surging across the border in record numbers in order to work in the United States,


Carolina Canizales, Senior Texas Strategist Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Alexis Bay, Legislative Coordinator for the Beyond Borders program at Texas Civil Rights Project

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 833-877-8255, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet@TPRSource.

*This interview will be recorded on Tuesday, April 18.

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David Martin Davies can be reached at dmdavies@tpr.org and on Twitter at @DavidMartinDavi