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Texas Press Association State Capital Highlights
Detention Facilities Swell with Young Border Crossers
Wednesday, July 2, 2014 • Posted July 3, 2014

AUSTIN — Streams of unaccompanied Central American children continued to make their way north, crossing the United States border into Texas where federal custody awaits.

Gov. Rick Perry, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and House Speaker Joe Straus earlier this month jointly announced authorization for the Texas Department of Public Safety to spend $1.3 million a week to fund security operations on the border. Two state lawmakers representing border districts commented on the situation last week.

Rep. Sergio Muñoz Jr., D- Mission, welcomed the surge of state troopers, but said, “We still need to find solutions to other strains on the system, such as processing, sheltering, and medical screening of thousands of new immigrants,” and added, “I believe anything we can do to draw resources and funding from our federal and state governments to help our local agencies recoup their costs is well worth the effort.”

Rep. Eddie Lucio III, D-Brownsville, met with Gov. Perry and state senator and gubernatorial candidate Wendy R. Davis to discuss issues related to the population influx. “We have to keep in mind these are not grown adults, they are kids. It is our moral duty to help however we can and find solutions to this situation,” Lucio said in a news release and pointed out, “according to the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, in 2013 over 21,000 unaccompanied and separated minors were detained by Customs Border Patrol and by the year 2015 over 60,000 minors are expected to arrive. Many of these children, average age of 14, are fleeing from Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras due to various reasons ranging from gang violence to deprivation.”

Without Congressional action on immigration policy reform, over the past months and years, many politicians have voiced a desire for action on the border. In a June 23 letter, Sen. Davis called on the governor to: (1) declare a state of emergency to secure essential resources, supplies, emergency services and facilities to meet the demand; (2) call an immediate emergency special session of the Texas Legislature, in the absence of federal action; (3) request additional immigration judges immediately; and (4) send the state/local bill to the federal government.

Gov. Perry announced on June 26 that he would provide testimony “about how the growing border crisis is impacting Texas” at a hearing of the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee scheduled for July 3 at McAllen, in Hidalgo County.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, the Republican candidate governor, on June 27 traveled to Hidalgo County. He announced his participation in a border security briefing with U.S. Customs & Border Protection officers, and his tour of a detention facility where he said people who illegally crossed into Texas are being housed.

Last week U.S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-California, was in Brownsville where she visited a federal detention facility. On June 26, Pelosi wrote to House Speaker John Boehner, asking for a bipartisan solution to “the humanitarian crisis at the southern border.” President Obama on June 28 announced he would ask Congress to approve $2 billion in emergency aid to help Texas and other states address the crisis.

Court rules in EPA case

The U.S. Supreme Court on June 23 ruled in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. Environmental Protection Agency et al., a case brought by a group of states including Texas. The federal agency’s methods of regulatory oversight over how states meet greenhouse gas emissions guidelines through permitting processes were ruled out of bounds.

Texas Attorney General Abbott reacted, writing, “Today the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a stern rebuke to the President” who he said had used “unelected bureaucracies to override the will of the people.”

Wording in the opinion of the court dealing with the EPA’s authority to set thresholds for emissions states: “EPA asserts newfound authority to regulate millions of small sources — including retail stores, offices, apartment buildings, shopping centers, schools, and churches — and to decide, on an ongoing basis and without regard for the thresholds prescribed by Congress, how many of those sources to regulate. We are not willing to stand on the dock and wave goodbye as EPA embarks on this multiyear voyage of discovery. We reaffirm the core administrative-law principle that an agency may not rewrite clear statutory terms to suit its own sense of how the statute should operate.”

Holiday patrols to increase

Texas Department of Public Safety last week announced plans to increase patrols for an 11-day period that includes the Fourth of July holiday, from June 27 to July 7.

DPS troopers are under instructions to focus on in high-risk locations at times when alcohol-related crashes are most frequent.

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