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Texas launches compensation program for those affected by border-related crimes

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(The Center Square) – Texas is launching a landowner compensation program for those impacted by border-related crimes after Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill into law creating it.

The Office of the Attorney General announced the online application process went live Thursday after final administrative rules were published last week.

Last June, Abbott signed SB 1133 to authorize the creation of a grant program to compensate certain property owners for damages caused by criminal activities on agricultural land. It allows “farmers and ranchers in border and rural counties much-needed relief from the damages caused by trafficking, smuggling, and bail-outs on their personal property,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. César Blanco, D-El Paso, said prior to the bill passing.

Blanco, who represents eight far west Texas counties, filed SB 1133 to create a grant program to compensate certain property owners for damages to real property caused by criminal activities on agricultural land. It amended state Code of Criminal Procedure to create the program and is being administered by the attorney general’s office.

In a hearing last year before the state Senate Committee on Border Security, several groups, including the Texas Farm Bureau and the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association, expressed support for the measure. They described the extent to which property damage was occurring due to bailouts, vehicle crashes and criminal trespass incidents.

Javier Ramirez with the TSCRA, who manages a ranch near La Pryor, Texas, roughly 40 miles from the Texas-Mexico border, testified that the ranch is “literally every day … bombarded with … bailouts, drive-throughs, high-speed chases, cut fences, cut locks, gates left open, foot traffic, break-ins [and] stolen vehicles…,” The Center Square reported.

The law allows landowners to receive up to $75,000 in reimbursement for damages per incident for repair costs not covered by other sources.

Under the program, landowners are required to file claims within 90 days of the incident causing damage. A 90-day grace period is being extended for those who suffered damage between Sept. 1, 2023, and May 6, 2024, after the go-live date of the program. If multiple incidents occur even on the same day, a separate application for each incident must be filed. Damages are to be documented by a written law enforcement agency report to be eligible for compensation. If an application is denied, the decision may be appealed within 30 days.

“The online application system is intended to make the application process streamlined for landowners,” the program website states, noting that correspondence will be sent by email “to make communication and application processing efficient.”

The website has several sections, including Frequently Asked Questions, Fair Market Price Breakdown, and a direct deposit form to download.