Dallas County Commissioners said they would likely sue the state if a proposed border security measure becomes law. 

During a Dallas County Commissioners Court meeting on Tuesday, the commissioners were briefed on the current state legislative special session. One item they were concerned about was the critical border security legislation under consideration. 

Senate Bill 11 by State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury) creates a criminal penalty for improper entry from a foreign nation. For those without certain prior offenses, an offense under this proposed law would be a Class A Misdemeanor. That means it would be punishable by one year in jail, a maximum fine of $4,000, or both. The measure passed in the Senate in a vote of 19-12, with all Democrats voting against. It is currently pending in the House’s State Affairs Committee.

“Texas reached a record number of illegal immigrant apprehensions again in fiscal year 2023, with over 1.84 million apprehensions in Texas Sectors,” said Birdwell after filing the proposal. “As a result of the federal government’s unwillingness to enforce federal immigration laws and secure our southern border, the State of Texas has stepped up and devoted time and resources to combat the unprecedented border crisis that the state is facing. SB 11 will give our troopers more authority to control the border and keep Texans safe.”

Although the House has moved slowly on the measure, the commissioners were not keen on the idea. They claimed it would fill up county jails across the state without any attached funding. Assistant County Administrator Charles Reed called it a “textbook unfunded mandate.”

One commissioner also raised alarms with the new measure, calling it a “punishment to taxpayers.”

“Not only is [it] outrageous, it’s crazy, and it shows you how immigrants and a broken immigration system continues to be the pinata of both parties,” said Commissioner Elba Garcia. “The reality, colleagues, it’s a redundant law since it’s already illegal to be in the state without documentation anyway. Do we need an extra law just to punish taxpayers all over the state of Texas?”

During the Senate committee hearing, Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw informed Senators that the legislation proposed would lead to roughly 72,000 arrests statewide per year.

In discussion about SB 11, Precinct 2 Commissioner Andy Sommerman asked, if it is signed into law as is, if “that would be 293,000 to people in Dallas County who would be in violation of this law?” Reed replied, “potentially, yes.” 

Since Sommerman’s 2022 electoral defeat of lone Republican Commissioner J.J. Koch, the commissioners court has been entirely Democrat.

Commissioner John Wiley Price suggested, in response to the lack of bed space and the jails being almost at capacity in Dallas County, that once they pass the law, “let’s just file a lawsuit.”

Reed also added that if illegal aliens cross the border with children and are arrested, the child would be sent to the Texas Department of Protective Services while the alien is in jail. He claimed that the county would pay for the child’s court fees and the incarcerated alien’s attorneys. 

If SB 11 is passed in the House, it will take effect December 1, 2023.

Emily Medeiros

Emily graduated from the University of Oklahoma majoring in Journalism. She is excited to use her research and writing skills to report on important issues around Texas.