Log in
Capital Highlights

Legal groups sue to stop new immigration law


The ink was barely dry on a law signed by Gov. Greg Abbott that makes unauthorized entry into the United States a state crime before a lawsuit was filed by civil rights groups and El Paso County challenging its constitutionality. The Austin American-Statesman reported the suit was filed in an Austin federal court by the ACLU and two immigrant advocacy groups on behalf of the county. 

The complaint says Texas Senate Bill 4, passed in the recently concluded fourth special session, is “patently illegal” and that it violates “the federal government’s exclusive immigration powers and the sensitive foreign policy implications of these powers.” The law is set to go into effect on March 5.

SB4 allows any Texas law enforcement officer to arrest people who are believed to have entered the country illegally. Once in custody, they could either agree to leave the U.S. or face prosecution on misdemeanor charges of illegal entry. 

“These laws will help stop the tidal wave of illegal entry into Texas, add additional funding to build more border wall, and crack down on human smuggling,” Abbott said after signing the bill.

Border Patrol banned from cutting Texas razor wire

An appeals court has ordered the Border Patrol to stop cutting razor wire installed by Texas officials, The Dallas Morning News reported. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling that gave federal authorities the legal right to remove the fencing, which federal officials said had been done to prevent injuries to migrants. The state contended, however, that federal agents were removing the concertina wire simply to let migrants enter Texas without notification. 

Col. Steve McCraw, Texas Department of Public Safety director, said the state agrees that the wire should be cut in cases of emergency.

“We’re doing it to go rescue somebody,” he said. “We’re not doing it to allow a large number of migrants to enter between the ports of entry. We want them to go to the ports of entry.”

Texas has lowest gas prices in country

Gasoline prices in the state are at their lowest level in nearly three years, according to AAA. The current average is $2.57 a gallon — the lowest average gas price in the nation, according to a Texas Standard report. Matt Smith, an energy analyst for Kpler (stet), warned Texans that higher prices are likely during the holiday period. 

AAA is projecting 104 million travelers are driving at least 50 miles to their holiday destinations, while air traffic is expected to be the busiest ever, with 7.5 million air travelers this holiday season.

Smith said a number of factors, including unrest in Yemen and the Middle East, could cause oil prices to rise, leading to higher gas prices in the future.

“We’ve seen a lot of bearishness that has pushed these prices to multi-month lows here; we may be at the point now where we’re seeing a bit of a turnaround going forward here,” Smith said.

ERCOT chief: Grid is ready for winter

The chief of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas told his board last week that added power generation will be sufficient this winter, despite population growth and lower output from wind power turbines because of less wind velocity. 

“We are as ready as we have ever been to deal with the challenges of the winter season,” ERCOT chief Pablo Vegas told the board.

The Statesman reported Vegas’ statement of confidence in the grid comes just three weeks after ERCOT warned much of the state could face rolling blackouts starting next month, most likely in the early morning hours before solar generating facilities can be utilized. 

“In the wintertime, the peak of the system tends to happen in the early morning hours as people are starting to wake up at 7 a.m., 8 a.m.,” Vegas said. “It’s still cold from an overnight winter cold. And we don’t yet have the resources like solar resources on the system at that point in time.”

Vegas said 800 new projects have been added to the grid in the past year. ERCOT’s chief meteorologist  is predicting a milder than usual winter for much of the state.

Amount of state in drought declines

Drought conditions across Texas are declining, with 43% of the state in some stage of drought at the end of November — down 22 percentage points from the end of October and 42 percentage points from early September.

“Despite the improvements on the landscape, our statewide surface water supply reservoirs haven’t seen a lot of recovery yet,” Mark Wentzel, hydrologist with the Texas Water Development Board, wrote in his monthly report. “That’s not unexpected. Compared to the landscape, our water supply systems take longer to respond to drought.”

The surface water systems most adversely affected are clustered in Central and South Texas, which are still experiencing drought conditions. Also still in severe-to-extreme drought are far West Texas counties and a scattering of counties in Deep East Texas.

State leads nation in population increases in last year

Texas’ population grew more than any other state in the country, up nearly half a million people, according to the recent census estimate. The Texas Tribune reported the population growth is centered in the state’s cities. Nearly 70% of the state’s residents live in the four largest metro areas — Houston, San Antonio, Austin, and Dallas-Fort Worth.

While the state had the largest total increase in population, two other states had higher growth rates than the 1.6% recorded here — South Carolina and Florida. The South accounted for 87% of the country’s population growth in the latest census estimate.

Gary Borders is a veteran award-winning Texas journalist. He published a number of community newspapers in Texas during a 30-year span, including in Longview, Fort Stockton, Nacogdoches, Lufkin and Cedar Park. Email: gborders@texaspress.com.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here