EL PASO, Texas (Oct. 31, 2023) – El Paso County Commissioner David Stout, chairman of the Texas Border Coalition (TBC), today issued the following statement expressing deep concern over the potential repercussions of Texas House Bill 4 on border communities:
“The Department of Public Safety (DPS) anticipates that House Bill 4, which classifies illegal entry into Texas from Mexico as a criminal misdemeanor, will lead to the apprehension of an estimated 70,000 migrants – many of whom could be incarcerated in county jails for up to six months. The strain on border communities is evident, with a significant number expected to be housed in our county jails. This surge will inevitably necessitate public defenders for those facing trial, adding to the financial burden of incarceration.
“The Office of Court Administration foresees increased demands on border county courts, necessitating additional funding for indigent defense and potentially establishing new county courts-at-law.
“TBC surveyed its member counties, and while our response was incomplete, we identified cost patterns that should inform an estimate of the cost of House Bill 4.
“The average daily cost of detaining an individual is $90, while the average cost of legal representation for indigent clients is $600. The projected 70,000 apprehensions under House Bill 4 would result in estimated daily detention expenses of $6.3 million.
“Total costs for detaining individuals for three to six months range from $567 million to $1.134 billion.
There are additional costs that would be borne by Texas Counties. El Paso County, for example, has determined it would require a new jail with 400 beds for $162 million, as well as almost $60 million annually ($25 million for operations; $14.4 million for prosecution, indigent defense, and court costs; and $19.7 million for lost federal jail revenue).
“We also have concerns about the lack of basic due process provisions in HB 4, which would compound the erosion of civil liberties in communities across the state, especially in border counties. Wrongful stops and reckless vehicle pursuits have become rampant, putting our constituents at risk.
“It is imperative that the Legislature takes immediate action to allocate the necessary funding to local counties to prevent overwhelming their law enforcement resources. The success of HB 4 hinges on providing the appropriate financial support to the counties tasked with enforcing this new law.”