State Rep. Dennis Bonnen on Wednesday led a group of Texas Republican lawmakers in unveiling a $2.8 billion “invoice” they are submitting to the federal government to reimburse the state for costs related to illegal immigration.
“I would like nothing more than to put dollars currently devoted to border security and criminal alien incarceration toward our state’s top priorities of public safety and education of our children,” said Bonnen, an Angleton Republican who authored the centerpiece of an $800 million border security package the Legislature approved in 2015. “This would be possible if the Obama administration rightfully reimburses Texas and if the Trump administration follows on their promises to secure the border.”
Bonnen said that if Obama does not pay, the lawmakers will be asking the federal government for the reimbursement after Trump takes office next week.
In 2014, after a surge of immigrant families and unaccompanied children from Central America began arriving in the Rio Grande Valley, he and other Texas Republicans asked the federal government for $669 million in reimbursement for costs incurred since January 2013. Federal officials did not pay.
Bonnen’s new $2.8 billion total includes: $1.4 billion spent by the Texas Department of Public Safety to monitor the border, largely under the 2015 package; $729 million spent by Texas state and county jails that have housed unauthorized immigrants; and $417 million spent on health care for unauthorized immigrants at Texas medical facilities.
The largely symbolic announcement comes as lawmakers prepare to decide to what extent they want to continue spending state money on border security, which is typically a federal task.
The Texas Department of Public Safety has asked for more than $1 billion over the next two years to continue the campaign, which is the nation’s only state-level border security program of its kind.
The state budget, however, is tighter than it was in the 2015 session, thanks to low oil and gas prices and fiscal decisions the Legislature made in recent sessions.
Bonnen had previously indicated the election of Trump and his hard-line stance on immigration may allow Texas to pull back from immigration enforcement.
On Wednesday, Bonnen said the Legislature, which meets every two years, should approve funding a significant border security operation if the federal government has not done its part by the time state lawmakers adjourn at the end of May. He declined to say how much it may cost.