(CBSDFW.COM) – Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan calls the surge at the U.S.-Mexico border a humanitarian crisis. “I’ve been getting daily briefings from DPS, and what they’re saying is a surge that we haven’t seen in years.”
During an interview Friday morning, Phelan said, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, federal and state authorities apprehended more than 21,600 migrants in Texas last week.READ MORE: Troops From Mexico, Honduras, Guatemala Deployed To Guard Borders And Lower Migration
This week, that number jumped to more than 27,500.
Of those apprehended this week, about 9,500 came from Honduras, more than 6,500 were from Mexico, more than 6,100 came from Guatemala, and about 2,000 were from El Salvador. “That’s just the ones they apprehend, that’s not the ones that get through without being apprehended.”
He also said DPS is not only seeing the migrants coming into the Rio Grande Valley. “Now it has shifted all the way up to the Del Rio area, which DPS has never seen the activity they’re seeing the Del Rio area of the state of Texas. So it’s coming from really from multiple areas and stretching our resources even thinner.”
President Joe Biden said many of the apprehended migrants are being returned to their home countries.
Phelan said, “I don’t see a real plan from the administration, and it’s frustrating, and that’s a bipartisan frustration.”
The state is already spending $800 million this legislative session on border security.
But Phelan said as a result of the surge, DPS is requesting millions of more dollars. “I believe it’s in excess of $60 million over the next year to combat this. That is in additional troopers and additional equipment, overtime. There’s monitors, there’s drones, there’s all kinds of a whole level of security that DPS can provide along our southern border.”
During the interview, the Speaker also discussed bills working their way through the House to address last month’s widespread power outages that the state concluded were responsible for the deaths of 111 people. “We’ve got a very robust plan, over 10 to 12 bills, I think that we will have off the House floor in the coming weeks, hopefully before Easter.”READ MORE: Virtual Learning May Remain An Option At Some North Texas School Districts
Phelan said among the bills the full House will consider Tuesday would require power plants and other electric companies to winterize their facilities.
Other bills would ban variable rate electric plans for residents and require more oversight of the state’s electric grid operator, ERCOT.
Phelan said the House will also debate bills on how to pay for winterization and other improvements. “Our plan right now in the house will take $2 billion from Rainy Day Fund and create a revolving loan program.”
The goal he said is to protect ratepayers from facing those costs directly. “It’s an opportunity for co-ops, you know, in municipalities, especially to generate power, you can’t go out and get loans in the private market. For you know, let’s say modernization or for weatherization, the state can help back those loans, they’ll pay us back. And over time, we’ll be able to lend that money for decades to improve our infrastructure.”
The Speaker said private firms may also be eligible for the loans.
In addition, he said the state may offer grants. “I don’t see us giving grants to anyone in the private sector, there could be opportunities for grants for smaller municipalities and co-ops that may have difficulty repaying it. That’s something we need to work out.”
Besides electric utilities, Phelan said the program would also apply to expanding broadband access in the state.
It’s an even greater need now as distance learning and telemedicine became more of a reality during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Phelan said the House and Senate will hash out any differences they have in their bills because in the end, he said, lawmakers want to do what’s right for all Texans.MORE NEWS: Firefighters Battle Raging Fire At Addison Apartment Complex
Watch the full interview with Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan: