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Texas Senate Allocates $1.5 Billion for Border Wall Construction

The Texas Senate has allocated an additional $1.5 billion for state border security efforts, with the majority of the funds earmarked for the construction of more miles of the permanent wall along the Texas-Mexico border. This decision follows a previous allocation of over $5 billion during the regular session. Senator Joan Huffman, the author of Senate Bill 6, emphasized the state's commitment to filling the void left by the federal government's lack of action on border security. She noted that the state of Texas has already committed over $10 billion to border security since the launch of Operation Lone Star in 2021, with $5.1 billion allocated in the current biennium budget.

The regular session budget included more than $600 million for wall construction, and the newly allocated funds will bring the total for the biennium to $2.1 billion. Building a wall along the Rio Grande presents challenges due to the state's strong emphasis on private property rights. Eminent domain is not permitted for wall construction, so the state can only build where private landowners grant permission. According to John Raff, deputy director of the Texas Facilities Commission, the state has secured land use rights for approximately 60 miles of wall, with easement closures for another 50 miles anticipated in the coming year. Currently, the state has completed 12 miles of wall at a cost of around $30 million per mile, in addition to the 180 miles already built by the federal government.

In addition to border security funding, the bill includes $40 million in discretionary funds for the Department of Public Safety (DPS) to cover overtime and other expenses related to the fast-growing residential development of Colony Ridge in southeast Texas. This community has experienced a significant population increase in recent years, primarily catering to low-income first-time buyers. Despite internet rumors suggesting cartel activity, human trafficking, and "no-go zones" within the development, DPS Executive Director Steve McCraw confirmed that such claims are unsubstantiated. He stated that there is no significant or unusual cartel activity or drug trafficking in the area and that there are no zones where law enforcement is reluctant to patrol.

To address the security concerns, DPS currently maintains a presence of approximately 40 troopers in the region, in addition to the ten Liberty County sheriff's deputies responsible for regular law enforcement operations in the 60 square mile Colony Ridge development. Senator Huffman mentioned that DPS has flexibility in using the allocated funds for other border security operations if they determine that additional troopers in Colony Ridge are unnecessary.

The challenges faced by Colony Ridge are primarily attributed to its rapid population growth rather than elevated crime rates. Testimony presented during a Local Government Committee hearing on Colony Ridge revealed that the community's expansion has outpaced the resources available to local law enforcement. The Cleveland Independent School District, which serves Colony Ridge, has experienced significant growth in student population, with enrollment increasing from around 3,400 in 2013 to over 12,000 today. The district superintendent, Steve McCandless, reported that the district has added more than one thousand students since the start of the current school year.

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