Breaking News
More () »

Texas Republicans want to recruit untrained citizens for border protection, worrying Democrats

HB 20 would give citizens in a new border protection unit the power to arrest and detain. Critics say it would be made up of 'vigilantes.'

AUSTIN, Texas — The Mexican American Legislative Caucus says legislation that would create a new "Border Protection Unit" would give power to what it calls "roaming vigilantes."

And the group’s chair, State Rep. Victoria Neave Criado, says the bill would impact Texans across the entire state, not just along the border.

“So, when we think about Dallas, these civilians who are untrained could set up check points in our own city, questioning us as Americans about our, whether we are citizens or not and without consequence,” the Democrat warned on Inside Texas Politics.

Among other things, HB 20 would allow “Border Protection Unit” officers to arrest, detain and deter individuals crossing the border illegally. And this would be allowed “within the state of Texas.”

But some of the language that most alarmed Rep. Neave Criado and other immigrant advocates is that which gives officers in the unit immunity from criminal and civil liability for authorized actions. The Democrat claims even some Republicans are concerned with that provision.

“You’re going to have these civilians, non-law enforcement, that are going to be able to set up shop throughout the state, be able to pull people over,” she told us. “They can, under the law, arrest, detain, repel even citizens. That’s going to create a mess for our local law enforcement to clean up, which is of significant concern.”

Neave Criado says the bill could also hurt officer recruitment for police departments across the state already short on manpower.

We’ve asked the bill’s author, Rep. Matt Schaeffer, R-Tyler, to join us on Inside Texas Politics numerous times over the last few weeks. But his office has told us every time that the Republican is too busy to join us.

After a public hearing and testimony on April 13, the bill was left pending in the State Affairs committee.

Before You Leave, Check This Out