Texas lawmakers spearhead bipartisan border bill to help law enforcement better patrol Rio Grande

Bill would be paid for by funds forfeited from convictions of 'El Chapo,' other cartel members

Reps. Chip Roy and Henry Cuellar of Texas introduced a bill on Tuesday aimed at eradicating an invasive weed along the Rio Grande which makes it highly difficult for border patrol agents to navigate vast areas of the southern border

The bill, first obtained by Fox News, is a far cry from a comprehensive immigration reform package that's dogged lawmakers for decades. Its chief purpose is to help destroy fields of "carrizo cane" that grow along the southwestern border and build more roads so law enforcement agents can better patrol the territory and apprehend illegal immigrants and smugglers. 

But the legislation, titled "The Border Visibility and Security Act," led by Cuellar, a Democrat, and Roy, a Republican, does represent at least some bipartisan cooperation on a polarizing issue in an extraordinarily divided Congress. 

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is one of the lead sponsors on a bill introduced Tuesday to help border agents more easily navigate the banks of the Rio Grande. (FOX)

Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas, is one of the lead sponsors on a bill introduced Tuesday to help border agents more easily navigate the banks of the Rio Grande. (FOX)

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Cuellar has been one of the more hawkish Democrats on immigration. Late last month he warned in an interview with Axios that the government just "let everybody in" along the southern border. 

"Large dense strands of invasive carrizo cane and poorly maintained infrastructure, such as inadequate roads and lighting, interfere with law enforcement activities that protect our border and ensure the safety and health of Americans," Cuellar said in a statement.

"This bipartisan legislation will enhance illegal drugs interdiction efforts and increase apprehensions of smugglers," he added. "It will provide the resources needed to eradicate river reed growth along the Rio Grande, as well as build passable roads along our southern border."

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, talks with reporters in the Capitol after a meeting of House Democrats on Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, talks with reporters in the Capitol after a meeting of House Democrats on Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

"It’s very simple: If we want our border patrol to be able to take operational control of the border away from cartels and smugglers, then they need to be able to see everything that’s going on," Roy said.

Roy continued: "Human and drug traffickers are exploiting the lack of roads and access to smuggle drugs and migrants for profit. That adds to the severity of the Biden administration’s self-inflicted border crisis, endangers American citizens in Texas and across the country, and increases the exploitation of migrants who seek to come here."

It's unlikely that the bill would pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. 

The bill's other co-sponsors are Reps. Tom McClintock, R-Calif.; W. Gregory Steube, R-Fla.; Michael Cloud, R-Texas; Brian Babin, R-Texas; Lance Gooden, R-Texas; Mark Green, R-Tenn.; David Schweikert, R-Ariz.; Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas; Beth Van Duyne, R-Texas; Pete Sessions, R-Texas; Jody Hice, R-Ga.; Madison Cawthorn, R-N.C.; Van Taylor, R-Texas; Michael C. Burgess, R-Texas; Randy Weber, R-Texas; and Louie Gohmert, R-Texas. 

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In addition to building more roads and destroying the carrizo cane, the bill would also mandate more use of technology along the border and that the Department of Homeland Security submit a "comprehensive Southern border strategy" to two House committees.

Roy's office also says that the bill would not add to the federal deficit, because it would be paid for with criminal proceeds from the convictions of "El Chapo" and other convicted drug cartel members. 

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, any illegally obtained profits resulting from any criminal drug trafficking enterprise led by Joaquin Archivaldo Guzman Lorea (commonly known as 'El Chapo'), which are criminally forfeited to the United States Government as a result of the conviction of Mr. Guzman Lorea in Federal district court, shall be reserved for security measures on the border between the United States and Mexico, including to carry out this Act," the bill says.