AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas lawmakers will return to the capitol on Oct. 9 for the third special session amid a record surge of migrants in Eagle Pass, setting the stage for a renewed debate over how the state should respond.
Gov. Greg Abbott said last week he intends to ask lawmakers to consider legislation relating to immigration and border security. The governor has the sole authority to set the agenda during special sessions, and some lawmakers are urging him to include their own ideas on the call.
Eagle Pass’ state representative Eddie Morales is advocating for a novel jobs program he dubs the “Secure Our Border Migrant Processing Plan.”
The program will allow migrants to live and work in Texas for an initial three-year period after paying a $2,000 processing fee at entry.
“We need to make sure that we address the issue itself. And that’s getting these folks and sending a clear message to Latin America that if they come into Texas, they will be asked to pay into the system not take from the system,” Rep. Morales told Nexstar.
Under Morales’ plan, migrants would be issued a “Migrant ID Card,” distinguishable from drivers’ licenses, that will allow them to move freely without fear of deportation. Migrants must then remain gainfully employed to remain in Texas and avoid committing crimes above a Class C misdemeanor.
“There is a way that we can do it right, that we can create revenue at the same time as treating migrants humanely and protecting our law enforcement,” he said.
Morales estimates the processing fees could generate more than a billion dollars per year for the state. Gov. Abbott has not yet commented on the plan, nor has he specified what border policies would be eligible for consideration in the special session.
For years, Gov. Abbott has pushed Texas toward unilateral enforcement of border policy, citing what he describes as the federal government’s failure to control immigration. He told the conservative thinktank Manhattan Institute in New York last week that Texas will not “be an accomplice” to the federal government “abandoning the rule of law.”
“We have to alter our strategies so that we the State of Texas are using every tool that we can to enforce the rule of law in Texas and the United States,” he said.
Both Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick have suggested one flashpoint will be the controversy over Colony Ridge, a subdivision north of Houston that conservative media have claimed is a safe haven for illegal immigrants. There is no evidence to support those claims.
“When we have a special session and have bills proposed dealing with it, we’re going to have legislative hearings that will surface the information about whether or not those allegations are true, and if they are true, what they can do to stop it,” the governor told “Fox and Friends” last week.
The special session begins on Oct. 9 and may last as long as 30 days. Border legislation is expected to move alongside a fraught political battle over “school choice,” the governor’s priority to establish state-funded education savings accounts to subsidize private school tuition.