AUSTIN, Texas – In his State of the State address on Tuesday, Gov. Greg Abbott made border security a priority for state lawmakers.

The Texas Border Coalition had earlier called on the state to leave border security to the federal government because it is their responsibility. Click here to read a story on TBC’s stance.

By making border security a priority, Abbott is mandating that the legislature fast-track legislation on the issue. Abbott’s own proposals call for the spending of $735 million on border security in 2016-17. A full breakdown of where this money would be spent can be found at the bottom of this story.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave his State of the State Address in the Texas House on Tuesday, Feb. 18. (Photo: Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave his State of the State Address in the Texas House on Tuesday, Feb. 18. (Photo: Bob Daemmrich/Texas Tribune)

Here are Gov. Abbott’s remarks about border security during his State of the State address:

“When it comes to our state’s responsibilities, our first and foremost obligation is to protect our citizens’ safety. We cannot be naïve to the threat posed by drug cartels, transnational gangs and human smuggling and traffic operations. In the face of such evil, we cannot respond with apathy, but resolve.

“On one of my many visits to the Rio Grande Valley, I met a young Latina who pleaded with me to keep my promise to secure the border. She told me about her younger brother being in a pick-up soccer game where kids were choosing up teams. But one of the boys was a child of a known cartel member.

“Should her brother pick the boy for his team? What would be the consequences be if he did? If he didn’t? Our children should not be faced with such tough choices. We will not fail that young Latina. We will not fail my fellow Texans. We will do what the federal government has failed to do. We will secure our border.

“The first step in securing our border is enforcing the rule of law. The last lawsuit that I filed as Attorney General was a lawsuit to stop President Obama’s lawless executive action. I’m happy to report that late last night a federal judge halted the President’s executive action plan.

“In Texas, we will not sit idly by while the President ignores the law and fails to secure the border. That’s why I have a comprehensive border security plan. My plan more than doubles current spending on border security. It adds 500 new state troopers, more Texas Rangers who can focus on corruption, more funding for local law enforcement and more technology to stop transnational criminal activity that threatens every community in Texas.

“By hiring more DPS troopers for border security, it allows officers displaced from places like Longview, Lubbock and from around the state to return to their communities to keep them safe. It also expands the anti-gang efforts across the state, helping us to disrupt dangerous gangs in places like Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin.

“This legislation is essential, which is why I am declaring border security funding the fourth of my emergency items.

“But the reality is that DPS cannot recruit, train and deploy 500 new troopers overnight. It takes time to ramp up. That’s why this morning I met with the Commanding General of the Texas National Guard and the Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. I ordered them to remain deployed on the border until my security plan is implemented.

“As governor, I have identified funds to keep the National Guard in place until the Legislature acts. As soon as DPS has the permanent resources needed to secure our border, we can bring home our dedicated National Guard troops.

“We must remember the hardship such long deployment puts on our National Guard troops, on their families and on their careers. We should all be deeply grateful for their dedicated service.

“With us today is the Commander of our National Guard, General John Nichols and the Director of Texas DPS, Colonel Steve McCraw. Through them, let us show our thanks to the men and women who serve.”

State Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, chairs the Senate Hispanic Caucus. Rodríguez said he was disappointed with Abbott’s remarks on border security. “I am disappointed by the Governor’s remarks on immigration and border security. As recently reported by the Legislative Budget Board, current funding for border security lacks transparency and accountability. Instead of increasing funding for ill-defined security measures, we should invest in border infrastructure needs,” Rodríguez said.
In Abbott’s proposed budget for 2016-17, the Governor’s Office makes these remarks about border security:

“Texas communities cannot prosper if they are not safe. The federal government’s failure to secure the border has provided opportunities for violent criminals, drug cartels, and persons from countries with ties to terrorism to enter Texas. The Governor’s Budget calls for more than doubling state spending on border security operations to $735 million during the 2016-17 biennium. This $735 million funding request would fully fund ongoing border security efforts and enhance current border surge operations by providing additional Department of Public Safety troopers, improved equipment for law enforcement operations, enhanced communication tools, and amplified border prosecutions. By the end of the 2018-19 biennium, this additional funding request should devote an additional 500 troopers to border security.”

The budget document goes on to state:

State Senator José Rodríguez, chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus.
State Senator José Rodríguez, chair of the Senate Hispanic Caucus.

“Texas’ decade-long border security efforts were strengthened in the summer of 2014 when the state initiated a law enforcement border security surge in the Rio Grande Valley. This ongoing, multi-agency surge is successfully responding to the sharp increase in illegal immigration by acting as a deterrent and combating the criminal elements taking advantage of overwhelmed local and federal law enforcement resources along the state’s porous southern border.

“For the 2016-17 biennium, the Governor’s Budget recommends $735 million for border security. Included in the Governor’s Budget in the Article V proposal is $184 million in funding to permanently sustain the Texas Department of Public Safety’s (DPS) border security initiatives. Further, the Governor’s Budget includes additional funding for the Texas National Guard. In addition, $92 million is provided to enhance DPS’ border security initiatives by adding 250 additional DPS troopers during the 2016-17 biennium.

“Going forward, the Governor proposes to add an additional 250 troopers during the 2018-19 biennium, for a total increase of 500 new troopers by FY 2020. The Governor’s Budget also funds $87 million for new equipment and technology that will further improve the state’s border security efforts. The budget also provides funding to help local law enforcement respond to the border security challenges.”

Here is Abbott’s budget proposal for border security in detail:

To continue to fund border security efforts at DPS and with the National Guard, the Governor’s Budget includes $183.8 million in funding for overtime, fuel, travel, supplies, repairs, and aviation resources necessary to sustain the current surge though the 2016-17 biennium. $183.8 million.
Ensuring state and national security requires not only sustaining Texas’ current border security efforts on the border, but enhancing it. The Governor’s Budget includes $91.8 million to allow DPS to hire and deploy at least 250 new Texas state troopers during the 2016-17 biennium, with a goal of adding another 250 during the 2018-19 biennium (500 new troopers over four years). $91.8 million.
To train the additional troopers hired to enhance DPS’ current border security efforts, the Governor’s Budget includes $6 million for Department of Public Safety Recruit Schools. $6.0 million.
To effectively respond to border activity, the Texas DPS must have properly working vehicles. The Governor’s Budget includes $24.2 million to provide additional fully-equipped vehicles. $24.2 million.
Local law enforcement agencies in the border region play a major role in securing the state by responding to border crime and corruption, but local funds are not sufficient. The Governor’s Budget includes $10 million to provide local law enforcement agencies with the tools to increase their effectiveness with more staff and resources. $10.0 million.
Corruption among local law enforcement has recently included drug trafficking and money laundering on the border. The Governor’s Budget includes $8 million to DPS to allow for 20 additional Texas Rangers and supervisors, and for other operating expenses, to combat local corruption. $8.0 million.
Seven major Mexican cartels are currently operating in Texas to enlist transnational and statewide gangs to support their criminal activities. The Governor’s Budget includes $8 million for the DPS Criminal Investigations Division to add 20 new agents and fund their operations. $8.0 million.
Texas’ border with Mexico is about two thirds of the entire U.S.-Mexico border, requiring a heavy reliance on technology to monitor and respond to situations in the region. The Governor’s Budget includes $8.4 million to allow DPS to acquire a new high-altitude airplane equipped with surveillance cameras and staff. $8.4 million.
Since the recent creation of DPS’s Tactical Marine Unit (TMU), a fleet of shallow-water interceptor boats, the state has increased its deterrence of criminal activity on the Rio Grande. The Governor’s Budget includes $6.6 million to provide four additional boats, fuel, equipment, and associated staffing. $6.6 million.
Coordinated communication is critical to combat illegal cross-border activity. The Governor’s Budget includes $15.8 million to improve radio interoperability for DPS. $15.8 million.
The most commonly cited obstacle to analyzing the evidence collected from the victims of sexual assault is the cost associated with testing. The Governor’s Budget includes $10.8 million for DPS and local crime labs to timely analyze evidence for more efficient and effective prosecutorial assistance. $10.8 million.
School security officers must be prepared for rapidly unfolding active shooter incidents. The Governor’s Budget includes $4 million for the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement to provide active shooter response training for free to school marshals and higher education, school district, and charter school police departments. $4.0 million.