AUSTIN, Texas – A Republican state senator has expressed his concerns with Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to invoke of the “Invasion” clauses of the U.S. and Texas constitutions.
State Sen. Brian Birdwell, R-Granbury, is a native Texan and decorated military veteran. As an officer in the U.S. Army who served a 20-year career with numerous training deployments and two operational deployments, Birdwell rose to the rank of Lt. Col.
In 2001, Brian was serving on the Department of the Army staff at the Pentagon as the military aide to the Deputy Assistant Chief of Staff for Installation Management. On 9/11, American Airlines Flight 77 was crashed just yards away from his second floor Pentagon office. Birdwell was critically wounded and severely burned.
Of the burns that covered more than 60 percent of his body, nearly half were third degree in severity. Following 39 operations, months of hospitalization and numerous skin grafts, Birdwell made a miraculous recovery. He was awarded the Purple Heart for the wounds received that day. Upon retirement in July 2004, he was awarded the Legion of Merit.
Since invoking the the “Invasion” clauses of the U.S. and Texas constitutions, Gov. Abbott has ordered the deployment of ten M113 armored personnel carrier vehicles to the Texas-Mexico border as part of Operation Lone Star.
M113 are designed to carry infantry troops across modern battlefields alongside tanks. However, they can also be outfitted with heavy machine guns, grenade launchers, and anti-tank missiles. Abbott has not said if weapons will be carried on the M113s at the border.
Abbott has also sent a letter to county judges in Texas explaining his Executive Order invoking the “Invasion” clauses of the U.S. and Texas constitutions.
Sen. Birdwell voiced his concerns while chairing a State Committee on Border Security hearing at the state Capitol on Nov. 15. Sarah Hicks, Abbott’s policy and budget director, was testifying at the time.
Birdwell asked Hicks what Abbott’s intentions were by first reading part of Abbott’s statement.
“It says, ‘I’ve invoked invasion clauses of the US Constitution fully authorizing Texas to take unprecedented measures to defend our state against an invasion, of using those constitutional authorities and other executive orders to keep our state and country safe’,” Birdwell said.
“And then he lists a list of things related to that order. Article One, Section 10, Clause Three, lists varying things that states may not do without Congressional consent, laying the duty of tonnage, keep troops or ships of war in time of peace and or any agreement or compact with any state or with a foreign power or engage in war, unless actually invaded.”
Birdwell posed these two questions to Hicks: “What is the difference in the price point of Operation Lone Star today, as a pre-invasion declaration operation to a post-invasion declaration operation? Does the governor intend to engage in combat operations?”
Hicks responded: “I believe what he was referencing was the Executive Order 41 which was issued back in July. And I think it’s consistent with the letters that he sent to the (county) judges yesterday, which is, if we look at the totality of the destruction of all that’s happening, that it fits.
“It fits what the invasion feels… he (Abbott) has asked the (county) judges in the multiple counties across the state to help work with Congress and urge Congress to either clarify how we protect law enforcement and actually bring more manpower to actually close the border even more securely, or that the feds take action.
“I think that what he is talking about and what he is issuing as a reiteration of all the positions that he has taken, and he is very cognizant and very careful about protecting our law enforcement, men and women, and so I don’t think it is a change in overall tactic as much as it is a reminder to Congress and to the members working the issue that this is serious, and it demands a full and a serious response.”
Birdwell said he agreed that border security is a serious issue.
“I’m not decrying that, Sarah. What the governor has done for this operation, I’ve agreed with. I guess my concern is… the way this reads… you are potentially talking about supplanting DPS as the lead agency with Texas Military Forces as lead agency for combat operations and that is a very different… not just the financial obligation that you’re asking the legislature to consider.
“Look, the difference between war and peace is not the difference between a police officer’s pistol and an Abrams battle tank. That’s an increase in the lethality. The real difference between war and peace is the decrease in the standard of due process. We go from constitutional protections to law-of-land warfare and the Geneva Convention. That is a very different world.
“So, given that as the potential we are moving toward, what is the Legislature going to be asked to fund should we culminate Article One, Section 10, Clause Three at its fullest? What are you asking of the legislature under that declaration?
Hicks responded: “I think what I would say is, I think it is not a change in… to your point… I don’t think this is a switch from a law enforcement response to a military response. I think that is why he was asking the (county) judges to urge Congress to either step up to do their job or to provide the county judges…”
Birdwell interrupted Hicks to say: “Having read the documents and read this… look, this problem is very serious. I think the governor is taking it very seriously. My first question to you wasn’t supposed to be about this (Invasion clause). It was about how long can we continue to do Operation Lone Star?”
Birdwell continued: “Because we can accordion affect every state agency (and say) okay, we’ve got a border security president sitting in the White House and then we’ve got a border unsecure president sitting in the White House and we keep doing this (accordion effect) with the state budget.
“We can’t do nothing until the people of the state, you know, vote better in two years or four years or whatever the next election cycle is, when you’ve got everything coming through. But how long in perpetuity, can I continue spending $4 billion now, $6 billion, ($) 8 (billion) when my Medicaid, education, all the other expenditures of the state… so… look, I think the governor is bringing an immense amount of thought to this but the difference between war and peace is very profound. And I want to make sure we know what we’re getting into. Not just financially but what that clause means. What we’re getting into.”
Hicks responded: “Yes, sir. and I think he’s the governor is very cognizant of that distinction as well.”
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