Though activity in the state Capitol has largely been frozen after Democrats left Texas for Washington, D.C., to stop an omnibus election integrity bill, that hasn’t stopped some lawmakers from continuing their work on conservative priorities.
On Tuesday, State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) hosted a “border security forum” to “discuss the ongoing crisis on our southern border and what counties are doing to combat the influx of illegal entry.”
Though Slaton made sure at the outset to remind attendees the event was not an “actual” committee hearing, the forum provided more deliberation to the issue than had been seen in the building in years.
Slaton was joined by State Reps. Tony Tinderholt (R–Arlington), Phil Stephenson (R–Wharton), Jeff Cason (R–Bedford), Kyle Biedermann (R–Fredericksburg), and State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) at the front of the room as they heard testimony from a swath of citizens who shared their experiences with the state’s porous border.
Maria Espinoza, the national director of the Remembrance Project, a nonprofit organization that brings awareness to victims of crimes committed by illegal aliens, described the crisis in no uncertain terms.
“What is taking place right now is an invasion at our southern border,” she told attendees. “We are no longer a sanctuary city or sanctuary state. We are a sanctuary country.”
“The most egregious of all crimes due to illegal immigration is loss of life,” Espinoza added.
To that end, the forum heard the stories of several Texans personally affected by illegal alien-related crime.
Marie Vega shared the story of the loss of her son Javier, a border patrol agent who was shot in front of his kids, wife, and parents by two illegal aliens with prior convictions.
Dan Golvach phoned in to talk about the death of his son Spencer, who was fatally shot in the head by an illegal alien in Houston who had a long criminal record.
“What we are seeing right now is a pretty open attempt to aid and abet a massive invasion into our country,” he explained, adding, “If you’re a country, you have borders. We don’t have a border right now.”
In a particularly emotional moment, Golvach posed the question, “What border do I cross to reunite my American family?”
Several local elected officials also showed up to the forum, including county judges Curtis Evans of Jeff Davis County, Dale Carruthers of Terrell County, and Mike Judge of Goliad County, who each described the effects of illegal alien activity in their counties.
Each also described a lack of resources coming from the state and national sources.
Sheriffs Roy Boyd of Goliad County and Brad Coe were also in attendance to urge action and help from the state.
Coe suggested shutting down ports of entry in order to force cooperation from Mexico.
Jaeson Jones, a retired captain from the Texas Department of Public Safety’s Intelligence and Counterterrorism Division, explained that many in both the media and elected leadership don’t know the extent of the problem, calling the cartels’ entanglement with Mexican authorities a “true parallel government.”
Bianca Gracia, the president of Latinos for Trump, said she was tired of lawmakers’ rhetoric, from the federal government down to the state level.
“I’m urging you all to not play games anymore and to deliver for the state of Texas, because we deserve it. We just want you to do your jobs,” she said.
But while several lawmakers showed up for the hearing, State Rep. Tony Tinderholt reminded attendees that “it takes 76 members” to take action.
Though border security is one of several items lawmakers are allowed to consider during the ongoing special session, the current Democrat walkout has halted consideration of all bills in the House until they return.