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Abbott, who previously designated Mexican drug cartels as terrorist groups through an executive order, signed a bill into law that formalizes the label and increases penalties for drug-related crimes.
“The Texas Legislature has stepped up to make sure we continue to robustly respond to President Biden’s growing border crisis, including allocating $5.1 billion for border security,” Abbott said in a statement. “Today, I am signing six bills from this year’s regular session to ensure that Texas can continue to do even more to stop illegal immigration at our southern border and provide new tools to the brave men and women along the southern border to protect Texans and Americans from the chaos and crisis of the border.”
The bills signed by Abbott included a series of measures such as allowing Texas military forces to use drones, expanding what actions DPS-trained Border Patrol agents can take when apprehending individuals for felony offenses, creating a grant program for Texans who have property destroyed by drug smugglers or human traffickers, and allowing more interstate cooperation on matters of border security, according to the governor’s office.
Texas saw a flood of foreign illegal immigrants cross its borders in the days surrounding the expiration of Title 42, a COVID-related border policy, last month. Several Texas cities, like El Paso and Laredo, declared states of emergency over the situation at the border. Alongside the thousands looking to declare asylum in the U.S., Mexican drug cartels also seek to exploit the porous border to funnel drugs into the country.
Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw said that cartels were “public enemy number one.”
“Today, public enemy number one is the Mexican cartels, and they impact every community in Texas and the United States,” McCraw said. “Our mission is to detect and interdict transitional criminal activity and create proactive strategies to combat it. It’s dangerous to cross between ports of entry, and securing the border between them is ideal to fight Mexican cartels.”
Texas officials also announced this week the deployment of a 1,000-foot floating barrier to put in the Rio Grande to prevent would-be border crossers from swimming across.