Lawmakers in the Texas House approved three border security measures in the early hours of Thursday morning as the Texas Legislature’s third special session of 2023 has passed the halfway point.

Senate Bill 4 by State Sen. Pete Flores (R–Pleasanton) will increase penalties for human smuggling and operating a stash house. It establishes a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years for violations of SB 4.

Similar measures were proposed in both the regular and first special session but failed to pass both chambers of the Republican-dominated Legislature.

Although several amendments to SB 4 were proposed by Democrats, all failed to pass.

Lawmakers approved SB 4 in a final vote of 92-54. SB 4 will now be sent to the governor’s desk for final approval.

House Bill 6 by State Rep. Jacey Jetton (R-Richmond) appropriates $1.5 billion in funding for constructing, operating, and maintaining border barrier infrastructure.

Jetton said, “Funds in HB 6 will be used to prioritize the most at-risk areas of the border,” as determined by the Texas Department of Public Safety.

He amended the measure to ban the funds from being used for eminent domain of private land or to build a barrier along Texas’ borders with other U.S. states. The amendment passed by a vote of 134-4.

Democrat State Rep. Jessica Gonzalez (Dallas) proposed an amendment that would ban the funding from being used for buoy barriers in the Rio Grande. It failed by a vote of 62-82.

HB 6 passed in a vote of 84-61. It will now move to the Texas Senate for consideration.

While the Senate passed Senate Bill 11 by State Sen. Brian Birdwell (R–Granbury) to create a criminal penalty for improper entry from a foreign nation, the House approved its own version of the bill: House Bill 4 by State Rep. David Spiller (R-Jacksboro).

“A Texas solution to a Texas problem,” said Spiller regarding HB 4. He said the federal government has failed to secure the border and this measure will allow Texas to arrest people for illegally entering the state, as well as removing them from the state for refusing to comply with an order to return to Mexico.

Illegal re-entry after being denied entry also increases the criminal penalty for the individual.

Spiller highlighted that HB 4 affirms federal law and does not conflict with it.

Notably, an illegal alien’s “lawful presence,” including under an asylum claim or DACA, exempts them from the statute.

Debate on the legislation came to a standstill for hours, however, after Republican members voted to limit the debate to 46 amendments. Caught on a hot microphone, State Rep. Armando Walle (D–Houston) said the move was “f***ing bullsh**.”

HB 4 passed the Texas House by a vote of 84-60. It will now be sent to the Senate for consideration.

The third special session expires on November 7.

Sydnie Henry

A born and bred Texan, Sydnie serves as the Managing Editor for Texas Scorecard. She graduated from Patrick Henry College with a B.A. in Government and is utilizing her research and writing skills to spread truth to Texans.