Texas state Republicans are pushing legislation to make illegal entry from Mexico a felony, a move that comes as Texas lawmakers accuse the Biden administration of leaving border states to fend for themselves against the immigration crisis.
The bill from Republican state representative Matt Schaefer would also create a "Border Protection Unit," a larger state border patrol team to address the surge in migrants, Fox News reported. The bill must pass the legislature before the end of May to become law.
The Border Protection Unit would be headed by a governor-appointed unit chief, who could recruit a militia of civilians without felony convictions to "participate in unit operations and functions." Illegal immigrants who are arrested could face up to 10 years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
"Right now we can use all the help and any help at all that we can get, because we're being overrun down here and on the borders," said Zavala County sheriff Eusevio Salinas.
The proposed bill comes after Texas Republicans pressed the Biden administration to reimburse the state for its efforts to tackle the border crisis through Operation Lone Star.
"Texas has been forced by this administration to go it alone when it comes to securing our border," said U.S. representative Pat Fallon (R., Texas) in a statement. "Operation Lone Star has been a critical tool in stemming the tide of illegal immigration, but we cannot do it by ourselves."
The U.S. Border Patrol has experienced nearly 800,000 migrant encounters so far in fiscal year 2023.
"The Legislature, acting with the governor, has the solemn duty to protect and defend the citizens of Texas," the proposed bill reads. "Texas is in such imminent danger as will not admit of delay."