Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas Will Build a Border Wall, but Doesn’t Yet Give Details on Cost or Location

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gives his State of the State Address in the House Chamber in Austin, Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gives his State of the State Address in the House Chamber in Austin, Texas. AP Photo/Eric Gay

 

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The governor suggested more details would be released next week. The announcement Thursday of several initiatives is the latest in an ongoing conflict between Abbott, a Republican, and Democratic President Joe Biden's administration.

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Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that Texas will build a border wall along the state’s boundary with Mexico — but provided no details on where or when.

Abbott declared his plans during a press conference in Del Rio. He said he would discuss the plans next week. The Biden administration issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office.

Abbott announced the news while discussing a slew of border initiatives, such as a $1 billion allocation for border security in the state budget lawmakers just passed and a plan to establish a Governor’s Task Force on Border and Homeland Security with public safety and state government officials.

“It will help all of us to work on ways to stem the flow of unlawful immigration and to stem the flow of illegal contraband,” Abbott said, while seated next to officials from the National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Division of Emergency Management.

At the conference, Abbott also announced plans to increase arrests along the border — and increase space inside local jails.

"They don't want to come to across the state of Texas anymore because it's not what they were expecting," Abbott said before being met with applause from those at the conference. "It's not the red carpet that the federal administration rolled out to them."

He also announced an interstate compact with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to resolve the border "crisis," and called on other states to do the same.

Abbott's announcement comes after Republican former state Sen. Don Huffines said he will challenge the governor in next year's GOP primary — and as part of his campaign also promised to finish border wall construction in Texas.

"We will completely shut down the border until the crisis is solved and eliminate all taxpayer-funded subsidies to illegal aliens," Huffines tweeted earlier this month. "I am not afraid to take on the federal government."

Building a wall along the Texas-Mexico border was a key element of former President Donald Trump's successful 2016 election campaign plan that can be dated to when he was preparing his bid for a Republican nomination in 2014. His promise that Mexico would pay for it remained unfulfilled for the entirety of his administration.

During his term, Trump built 450 miles of barrier — mostly in Arizona and far less in the Rio Grande Valley, according to The Washington Post.

Earlier this month, Trump backed Abbott for reelection in the 2022 Texas gubernatorial election.

On Thursday, Abbott didn’t address the ongoing conflict between himself and the Biden administration that escalated this week after federal officials threatened to sue Texas over Abbott’s order to strip certain shelters for migrant children of their state licenses, which could force the shelter operators — which operate under contracts with the federal government — to move the children elsewhere.

The 52 state-licensed shelters house roughly 8,600 children, according to data from the state. In a letter to Texas officials Monday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services attorney Paul Rodriguez asked Texas to clarify Abbott’s order and said it could violate the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which states that federal law overrides state laws. He gave Texas until Friday to respond.

However, he did call on the federal government to pay for the "damages" brought on by immigration to the border, claiming landowners are left to foot the bill for people that migrate.

"The border crisis is no laughing matter," Abbott said. "This is something that also is not a tourism site for members of Congress to make an annual pilgrimage to and see the border, and then go back and do absolutely nothing at the federal government level to solve the crisis."

Abbott has blamed the recent surge of migrants to the Texas-Mexico border on the Biden administration’s immigration policies, claiming in a disaster declaration this week that new federal policies have paved the way for “dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities.”

Two weeks ago, Abbott deployed more than 1,000 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and National Guard members to the border as part of Operation Lone Star — an initiative he announced in March aimed at beefing up security at the border. Abbott later expanded those efforts to also tackle human trafficking at the border, including a plan for DPS troopers and Texas Rangers to interview unaccompanied minors that cross the border to identify potential human trafficking victims.

During his first months in office, Biden ordered a review of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until their cases could be heard in U.S. immigration courts.

The Biden Administration has referred to its new policies as a way to be more humane toward migrants.

After Vice President Kamala Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico this week, she told NBC’s Lester Holt, “We have to understand that there’s a reason people are arriving at our border and ask what is that reason and then identify the problem so we can fix it.”

During her trip, she faced backlash from progressives after she told Guatemalans: “Do not come.”

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2021/06/10/texas-mexico-border-wall-greg-abbott/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom informing and engaging Texans on state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

Heidi Perez-Moreno is a reporting fellow at The Texas Tribune

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