FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 04/09/2015
TEXAS HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES PASSES H.B. 12 BY REP. LONGORIA
AUSTIN, TX—Today, the Texas House of Representatives, with a unanimous vote of 143, voted to pass House Bill 12 by State Representative Oscar Longoria (La Joya). This legislation codifies the Border Prosecution Unit (BPU), formalizing the organizational structure of the BPU and providing a statutory basis for its operations, duties and responsibilities.
H.B. 12 amends the Government Code to establish the border prosecution unit as an independent unit that cooperates with and supports attorneys in a border region who represent the state in the prosecution of felony border crimes. The bill establishes that the unit is governed by a board of directors composed of specified prosecuting attorneys whose service on the board must be in addition to the attorneys' other duties assigned by law. The unit is comprised of the following border prosecuting attorneys: the 34th, 38th, 49th, 63rd, 79th, 81st, 83rd, 112th, 143rd, 156th, 229th, 293rd, 452nd judicial districts, all other offices of district attorneys, criminal district attorneys or county attorneys with felony responsibility, created by the legislature whose jurisdiction lies with the border region.
This bill requires the BPU to facilitate the coordination and collaboration of the members of the board of directors with the regional counsel employed by the unit and with other law enforcement agencies, including DPS, in the investigation and prosecution of border crime and to develop a nonexclusive list of offenses not included in the bill's definition of "border crime" that constitute border crime to provide guidance and enhance uniformity in the investigation and prosecution of border crime.
The bill requires the unit to serve as a clearinghouse for information related to the investigation and prosecution of border crime, to develop best practices and guidelines, and to assist in developing a training program and providing training to prosecuting attorneys and law enforcement agencies in the border region on specific issues and techniques relating to the investigation and prosecution of border crime.
House Bill 12 will facilitate the BPU in prosecuting drug/border crimes (murder, kidnapping, extortion), criminal enterprises associated with cartels and drug trade, financial crimes and human trafficking. The bill will enhance relations between each district attorney, local DPS and law enforcement organizations on the ground. They will work together in the handling of cases that reach across county/jurisdictional boundaries. It will also implement threat-based operational goals and practices targeting gangs and other criminal organizations operating in Texas, including those in state prison facilities.
Representative Oscar Longoria issued the following statement:
“I am extremely pleased to announce that House Bill 12 has been voted out of the House. This legislation is important because it places the Border Prosecution Unit into statute, which better allows local officials to prosecute border related crimes, such as: drug smuggling, murder, kidnapping, extortion, money laundering and human trafficking.
The Border Prosecution Unit is vital in helping prosecutors screen cases, secure indictments and bring accused criminals to trial. This bill will give our prosecutors the resources and support they need to ensure that those who enslave, exploit and endanger others are put behind bars where they belong."
Representative Oscar Longoria proudly represents House District 35, which encompasses both Hidalgo and Cameron Counties and includes the cities/towns of: La Joya, Sullivan City, Peñitas, Alton, Edinburg, Monte Alto, Edcouch, La Villa, Mercedes, Weslaco, Santa Rosa, Primera, Palm Valley, Combes, Harlingen, and La Feria.