Texas Bill Would Create Unit of Unaccountable Border Cops
Last week, Texas Rep. Matt Schaefer (R–Tyler) introduced House Bill 20, also known as the Border Protection Unit Act. The bill would expand the mandate of state law enforcement into the federal realm and shield state agents from accountability for their actions. Critics of the legislation warn that it could lead to racial profiling and civil rights violations.
H.B. 20 would create a Border Protection Unit with deputized agents who can “arrest, detain, and deter individuals crossing the border illegally, including with the use of non-deadly force.” The unit will also “oversee the construction and maintenance of walls, fences, and other physical barriers” along Texas’ border with Mexico. “Law-abiding citizens without a felony conviction” will be eligible to join the unit. However, they will not be allowed to perform arrests “unless trained and specifically authorized by the governor.”
Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said H.B. 20 would “subject South Texans to constant state-mandated racial profiling” and “big-brother police-state dystopia.” Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer (D–San Antonio) called the legislation “a ‘Show me Your Papers’ bill,” echoing other bills requiring state law enforcement to determine someone’s immigration status, including during routine traffic stops. In 2014, the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona said it had documented “numerous cases of racial profiling and illegal detentions” since Arizona’s S.B. 1070 went into effect. H.B. 20’s arrest and detention components could lead to the same outcome.
This is especially concerning when combined with the fact that all officers and employees of the border unit would “have immunity from criminal and civil liability for any actions taken that are authorized” by the legislation.
The head of the Border Protection Unit would be appointed by and report directly to the governor. “Existing personnel, equipment, and facilities” may be transferred from the Department of Public Safety to the border protection unit “as necessary.” Funding for the unit would come from legislative appropriations, “other government funds,” and donations from U.S. citizens and “domestic entities.” The border unit would operate through 2030 with the possibility of being reauthorized by
Article from Reason.com