“The lack of concern by federal agencies for the safety of unaccompanied minors in housing facilities, and the disregard of negative impacts on our rural communities, requires Texas to take bold actions,” explained Republican State Rep. Stan Kitzman of Brookshire in his layout of House Bill 5000.
HB 5000 by Kitzman would ensure all childcare facilities providing care for unaccompanied minors in the country illegally be licensed by the state. It is an attempt to better track the whereabouts of these children, many of whom are now missing after being released into the nation’s interior by the federal government.
“Texas has been forced to be responsible for these children by the federal government and its associates,” said Kitzman. “Yet the same federal agencies refuse to work with state and local officials and law enforcement [and] laugh in the face of those trying to uphold legal obligations to protect these minors.”
“In my district alone, two facilities that we’re aware of are opening their doors—with no oversight by the state—to care for these children, placing the burden on our local governments,” said Kitzman. “We just want to stop allowing these children to be abused and trafficked and smuggled on our watch.”
Former acting commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan recently explained that more than 80,000 children are missing, and the Biden administration has “no idea where they are.”
But he says he does:
Well, I know where they’re at. They’re at slaughterhouses and they’re being sex trafficked every single day in this country.
Sheena Rodriguez, president of Alliance for a Safe Texas, testified in favor of HB 5000, stating, “No minor should be less protected, and the standards for their safety should be no different, than the children in our state’s care.”
“There is nothing which prohibits states from enforcing safety protocols or state licensing requirements,” said Rodriguez. “HB 5000 seeks to create a much-needed additional buffer of accountability and protection for the unaccompanied minors Texas has been tasked to care for by the federal government.”
She described several issues with an emergency intake facility in Midland, saying they weren’t using potable water, meeting safety standards, or reporting minors running away to law enforcement.
Jennifer Allman, executive director of Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops, also testified on the measure, stating that the committee substitute is amenable to the conference because it exempts religious ministries from the licensure requirements.
“There are situations and incidents that are occurring in facilities that are not under Texas’ licensure jurisdiction. We find that troubling,” said Allman. “However, our broken immigration system and the failure to adequately secure the border is a problem that lies squarely on the leaders of both political parties. These political decisions and trajectories remain outside of our control.”
In addition to HB 5000, the House State Affairs Committee also considered Senate Bill 1900 by State Sen. Brian Birdwell(R–Granbury), which would define and create criminal penalties for Foreign Terrorist Organizations.
According to the bill’s House sponsor, State Rep. Ryan Guillen (R–Rio Grande City), SB 1900 “increases the tools available for law enforcement and prosecutors to apprehend and prevent illegal cartel activity.”
Guillen said, “The bill defines foreign terrorist organizations, including Mexican cartels, and adds them to the organized crime chapter of the Penal Code. In effect, this enables law enforcement and prosecutors to pursue higher penalties for criminal activity associated with a foreign terrorist organization. It also requires the addition of foreign terrorist organizations to intelligence databases maintained by local and state entities for law enforcement use.”
SB 1900 also says that “intending to deliver a controlled substance or dangerous drug, or operating a stash house, can qualify as engaging in organized criminal activity.”
Both bills were left pending in committee Wednesday.