Yesterday President Trump announced he “will hurl federal officials into the task of building a wall on the US-Mexico border,” combined with other measures to enforce or enact immigration policies in the U.S.
Just over a week ago, Rep. Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton, and a group of Republican colleagues made good on a year-old promise by Gov. Abbott to pressure the federal government into paying for the state’s beefed-up border security, forwarding a $2.8 million “invoice” to then-President Obama.
And Governor Greg Abbott is standing firm against a Texas sheriff who believes she can ignore federal ICE laws.
What’s all the kerfuffle about? Voters and what’s on their minds.
Immigration security is on the minds of Texans
Anyone calling the largely symbolic gesture of invoicing the federal government a publicity stunt should note how little attention it received. And in bypassing the issue, the media are missing the bigger picture: Texas voters have consistently expressed concern about immigration and border security.
According to the Texas Pulse Poll, cited as one of the most reliable polls in the state, immigration and border security has consistently ranked as the highest concern among Texas voters. Produced by Crosswind as part of its client and intelligence resources, the poll is a periodic measurement of Texans’ views towards personalities, issues, products and more.
And while it’s ranked higher among Republicans than Democrats – about half of all Republican voters in the state cited it as their number one concern in back-to-back polls – one-third of all Texas voters cited it as their number one priority in the September 2015 poll, with 33-percent, and that figure still remained close a year later when 29-percent rated immigration and border security as their chief concern.
How the “immigration invoice” idea got started
Largely in response to the surge of Central Americans crossing into Texas along its border with Mexico in 2014, Gov. Greg Abbott signed House Bill 11 a year later, with provisions to increase manpower, technology and intelligence operations along that border. At the time Abbott stated: “Texas is willing to shoulder the responsibility; we expect the federal government to foot the bill.”
Components of that bill – part of an $800 million border security budget – cost approximately $310 million, paying for, among other things, a continued Texas National Guard presence until the Texas Department of Safety (DPS) could bring in permanent new hires with the necessary training.
The action by Texas’ leadership was in keeping with its independent character, often manifested in its highly chronicled skirmishes with the federal government – and particularly, with President Obama.
It doesn’t matter to security-minded Texans who is in charge
When it comes to border security, the Texas legislature doesn’t care who’s in the Oval Office: They’re serious about securing the state’s borders, and the GOP lawmakers are no less adamant that a President Trump has as much obligation to secure federal borders as his predecessor, with Bonnen citing the Trump administration’s promises to do so.
They don’t care who is in charge as long as the federal government pays for it.
One of the few outlets that did cover the Texas lawmakers’ effort was the Austin American-Statesman, noting in its coverage that DPS officials have requested more than $1 billion to continue the one-of-a-kind security efforts over the next two years. This amount would be an uncomfortable squeeze on the state’s purse strings, perhaps fostering the new resolve that the federal government should be paying for a job they should be performing – not Texas.
Based on today’s announcement, Donald Trump largely agrees with them.
Whether the President succeeds in building the wall, ending sanctuary cities, mobilizing more border troops or deporting current illegal immigrants, those who are charting Texas’ future course would do well to pay attention to the most important issues on the minds of Texans. Immigration and border security has consistently held that top spot for 18 months.
We’ll ask the voters again on our next poll, so let us know if you want to receive a report by signing up here. And if you wish to better understand the Texas Public Policy and issues, or need help navigating today’s complex media environment, drop me an email here.
Meanwhile, we’ll keep an eye on reports that the federal government’s check is in the mail.
By Thomas Graham