Texas providing initial $250 million 'down payment' for border wall, Abbott says

ByJames Barragan, The Texas Tribune
Wednesday, June 16, 2021
Texas to pay $250M 'down payment' to build border wall, Abbott says
As part of his plan to build the border wall, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced it will provide the initial $250 million in state funds as a down payment.

AUSTIN, Texas -- Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday began announcing details of his plan for Texas to build its own border wall, starting the hiring process for a program manager and providing $250 million in state funds as a "down payment."

"Texas will build a border wall in our state to help secure our border," Abbott said.

The governor did not specify how long the wall would be or where it would be built, saying that those decisions will need to be determined by a program manager after more research. On Wednesday, Abbott directed the Texas Facilities Commission to hire a program manager to begin that work.

In case you missed it, you can watch Abbott's full remarks in the video above.

"My belief based upon conversations that I've already had is that the combination of state land, as well as volunteer land, will yield hundreds of miles to build a border wall in Texas," he said.

Last week, Abbott hinted during a self-styled border summit in Del Rio that he would create a border barrier to stem the flow of immigrants and illegal drugs into the state, but he did not give details on where the barrier would be built or how it would be funded.

On Tuesday morning, Abbott told "Ruthless," a podcast about Republican politics, that the state would solicit donations from across the country to help pay for the wall. He said he would have a link prepared when he made the announcement, and all the money donated would be tracked and accounted for.

SEE ALSO: Gov. Greg Abbott says he'll use crowdfunding for his plan to build a border wall

Abbott, a two-term Republican governor, has blamed the Biden administration in Washington for a recent surge of immigrants on Texas' southern border, saying in an earlier disaster declaration 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."

Abbott has deployed National Guard troops to the border and ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety to arrest immigrants and charge them for state laws such as trespassing, illegal entry, smuggling and human trafficking.

Immigrant rights advocates have said arresting and prosecuting immigrant parents who cross the border with their children seeking asylum could lead to the same separation of families seen under the Trump administration. Advocates have also expressed concern that the move essentially criminalizes seeking asylum.

But critics have also questioned Abbott's authority to get involved in immigration regulation, which is a federal government purview. The League of United Latin American Citizens has threatened to sue the state as soon as Abbott finalizes his plan for the border wall.

Building a wall along the entire U.S.-Mexico border was a hallmark of former President Donald Trump's campaign. Once in office, his administration built about 450 miles of barrier, mostly in Arizona and far less in the Rio Grande Valley, according to The Washington Post.

On Tuesday, Trump said he received and has accepted an invitation from Abbott to tour the border at the end of the month.

SEE ALSO: Donald Trump to tour border wall with Gov. Greg Abbott on June 30

Federal lawmakers have said building portions of the wall in Texas cost $26.5 million per mile. The Biden administration, which has ordered the federal government to stop construction of the wall where possible, said last week that building the wall cost taxpayers $46 million per mile in some areas along the border.

Abbott's plan to crowd-fund the border wall's construction is reminiscent of We Build The Wall, a private fundraising effort that raised more than $25 million for construction of a border wall. Last year, four people involved in We Build The Wall - including Steve Bannon, Trump's former adviser - were charged with allegedly defrauding donors to the effort. Trump pardoned Bannon before leaving office in January.

The plan has another parallel to a 2011 effort by the Arizona Legislature to create a website that raised funds for constructing a fence on its Mexico border. That effort received almost $270,000 by 2014, and an advisory committee gave most of it in 2015 to a county sheriff who invested the money in security technology like GPS systems, according to The Arizona Republic.

In response to Gov. Abbott's plans, FIEL, an immigrant-led civil rights organization, said there are many questionable points. Read the organization's full statement below:

"Governor Abbott has gone too far! During today's press briefing on his preposterous plan to 'Build a wall,' the Governor was ill-prepared and just making scenarios up as he went along. There were many questionable points during his press briefing, some of which are: 1. He is still unable to provide a clear plan as to how he is going to build the border wall. 2. How much the final cost for Texans will be. 3. Why wouldn't he use the emergency funds to fix the power grid? 4. Why is he willing to do this for his political gain but not when Texans really need help? It is really a shame that Governor Abbott is using his elected office to push his own political agenda for his bid for re-election in 2022. During the press briefing, he defended his stance on Ercot and said that the power grid is better than ever ignoring the fact that people DIED during the freeze. He went on to talk about how the state would detain immigrants but failed to say where or how this would be done without violating federal laws. We condemn the governor's statements and we fear this will bring Texans more harm than good. Abbott simply has gone too far in his selfish crusade for re-election."

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