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HB 11 creates the Reserve Officer Corps and assigns them as official peace officers. The Reserve Officer Corps would be retired or otherwise previously commissioned officers of the DPS. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) can also hire officers with previous law enforcement experience and may credit up to four years of experience as a peace officer in Texas for the purpose of calculating the officer’s salary. All new officers are subject to a one-year probationary period.
This bill allows a judge to order an interception of wire, oral, or electronic communications if the prosecutor shows probable cause that the interception will provide evidence of the commission of either aggravated promotion of prostitution or compelling prostitution.
In order to prevent human trafficking, unlawful transfer of firearms, and bulk currency into Mexico, the Department of Public Safety will investigate the feasibility of assisting federal authorities in setting up International Border Checkpoints. These checkpoints are designed only to stop traffic leaving Texas and entering into Mexico.
This bill expands on the Department of Public Safety’s technology policy, outlining that a periodical review should be done to evaluate whether the security system should be upgraded to better monitor and investigate criminal activity. The policy also states that the department shall make any necessary improvements to their information technology system.
This bill establishes crime statistics reporting requirements for each local law enforcement agency. The bill creates the Texas Transnational Intelligence Center (“center”) as a central repository of information relating to criminal activity along the Texas-Mexico border. The information at the center will be made available to every law enforcement agency within Texas, the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, and the Parks and Wildlife Department.
The Texas Anti-Gang Grant Program is re-enacted.
The offense of smuggling is further clarified and an additional amendment is added of a first degree felony charge for an offense that leads the smuggled individual to become a victim of sexual assault, serious injury, or death. This bill removes the affirmative defense from prosecution, of an individual smuggling a family member within the second degree of consanguinity, if the smuggled individual has suffered from serious injury, sexual assault, and/or death.
A new felony offense is created called the “continuous smuggling of persons”. This offense is a felony of the second degree. However, it becomes a felony of the first degree, if it is a child under 18 years of age or the smuggled individual has suffered serious injury or death. This bill also adds this new offense to contraband assets able to be seized
This bill replaced certain references to removed statutes with current statutes.
HB 11 would protect the individual liberty and security of the people in Texas by increasing border security, regardless of the federal government’s unwillingness to defend our borders from the illegal activities entering into our state. This bill displays a uniquely Texas solution to the growing problem of cross-border criminal activity.
While this bill does have a fiscal note, it is crafted in a way that allows DPS to protect our borders using the Reserve Officer Corps at a cost that is far lower than the alternative of hiring many more full time employees.
This legislation represents an attempt to crack down on cartel activity, stem the tide of human trafficking, and end notorious Texas to Mexico smuggling operations made famous by programs such as Fast & Furious and Project Gun Runner (See the DOJ’s review of Project Gunrunner here). For too long the federal government has failed to do it's Constitutionally-required job of securing the border. This legislation presents an opportunity for Texas to help do the job the federal government has been unwilling or unable to do.
This bill's merits notwithstanding, we are concerned that the southbound border checkpoints which are intended to interdict cartel activity have the unintended consequence of adding to the problem of civil asset forfeiture which some legislators are seeking to address through other legislation. This bill could also have an unintended impact on legitimate trade going into Mexico, by possibly increasing check stops. These concerns, while merely speculative, could be allayed by amending the bill to specifically prohibit civil asset forfeiture from being utilized at any checkpoints that may eventually be set up.
It is rare that Texas Public Policy Action supports a bill that increases spending. However, this bill does fall within the proper role of government by protecting our liberty and administering criminal justice. This bill would protect our borders and help to shore up public safety, particularly in the border region. We support this bill for increasing individual liberty and limiting government spending.