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The state Senate on Tuesday approved a $1.5 billion proposal that would give Gov. Greg Abbott the money to continue erecting a barrier along the Texas-Mexico border and pay for state troopers to have a presence on Colony Ridge, the Houston suburb that far right publications have said is a magnet for undocumented immigrants.
Senate Bill 6 passed on a 17-11 vote and now heads to the House of Representatives, where lawmakers passed a similar bill that would devote the entire $1.5 billion to border barrier construction.
SB 6, sponsored by state Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, would set aside $40 million for “overtime expenses and costs” to increase law enforcement presence in Colony Ridge “to preserve public safety and security.”
The rest of the money would go to continue building a barrier on the 1,200-mile Texas-Mexico border. The money would be on top of at least $1.5 billion in contracts the state has issued since September 2021 to build about 40 miles of border barrier. As of August, Texas had only erected 10 miles of the steel bollard barrier in Starr, Cameron, Val Verde and Webb counties.
Colony Ridge, a massive residential development north of Houston that its developer estimates is home to about 50,000 people, has grown steadily for more than a decade. It came to the attention of Abbott and Republican lawmakers after far-right publications published articles portraying the development as a “magnet for illegal immigrants.”
Abbott suggested that he is worried the state’s ban on “sanctuary cities” is not being enforced. The 2017 law bans so-called sanctuary cities and fines local officials $25,500 for each day municipal law enforcement doesn’t cooperate with immigration officials in turning over undocumented immigrants; heads of local law enforcement agencies can be charged with a misdemeanor under the law.
Legal experts say there is no law against selling land to people who aren’t citizens.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said during a House committee meeting earlier this month that Abbott’s concerns that the subdivision was a “no-go zone”and that it was too dangerous for law enforcement to patrol were unfounded.
“There’s no such thing as a no-go zone in Texas,” McCraw said. “We obviously talked to the sheriff … and he assured us that was not the case. Certainly, our sergeant didn’t think so. Our troopers can go anywhere.”