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Gov. Abbott debuts construction of Texas border wall; Beto O’Rourke dismisses it as a ‘photo op’

RIO GRANDE CITY, Texas -- Texas Gov. Greg Abbott visited Starr County on Saturday to inaugurate the first stretch of a border wall being built by the state, calling it an “unprecedented” investment in border security.

Construction crews on site said about 880 feet of barrier have been installed as of Saturday afternoon.

Abbott has made immigration enforcement one of his top agenda items as he seeks reelection next year. At a news conference in front of the new wall segment Saturday, Abbott condemned the federal government’s immigration policies — though some were extended from the Trump administration — and criticized President Joe Biden’s reversal of the efforts to build a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico.

“This unprecedented action is needed for one single reason, and that's because the Biden administration has failed to do its job,” Abbott said.

In fiscal year 2021, immigration enforcement agents reported 1.7 million encounters along the U.S.-Mexico border, breaking a previous high of 1.6 million encounters in fiscal year 2000. Encounters are defined as the number of times a migrant has been stopped by immigration agents.

The Biden administration currently enforces two strict Trump-era immigration policies. Title 42, a pandemic health order, was issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last year to rapidly expel migrants to their home countries without the opportunity to ask for asylum. Following a court order, the Biden administration also revived the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, which forces asylum-seekers to remain in Mexico as their cases make their way through U.S. immigration courts.

Abbott has been prioritizing border security as he runs for re-election with Trump’s endorsement. Abbott’s likely Democratic challenger, Beto O’Rourke, dismissed the governor’s Saturday announcement.

“Border communities are tired of Greg Abbott hosting photo-ops instead of of fixing the real challenges facing our border communities today, like the Abbott Tax border families will pay on their utility bills because he has failed to fix the grid,” O'Rourke said in a statement.

Abbott was joined by Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush, as well as representatives from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard.

Bush, who is currently running for Texas Attorney General, said this stretch of wall was being constructed on state-owned land that has been leased out to a local farmer.

“It's on state acreage that we stand today where the people of Texas finally said, enough is enough,” Bush said. “Enough of open borders, enough of disorderly chaos … If the Washington, D.C. establishment doesn't do their job, Texas will.”

Abbott announced in June that the state would build a wall along the Texas-Mexico border using state money and crowdfunded private donations. The governor’s office appropriated $250 million of state money as a down payment for the wall-building effort, and lawmakers appropriated an additional $750 million for border barriers during one of the legislative sessions this year.

As of Dec. 13, the state has collected $54 million in private donations, mostly coming from one single donor: Timothy Mellon, the chair of Pan Am Systems, a privately-held transportation and freight holding company. Mellon has previously donated to immigration enforcement efforts in the past.

In total, the state now has at least $1.05 billion for its border barriers.

That would fund between 31 and 183 miles of barrier construction, based on the per-mile costs of the contracts initiated by the Trump administration, according to a Texas Tribune analysis. The contracts, which were halted by the Biden administration, ranged from $6 million to $34 million per mile for wall construction.

The Texas-Mexico border is 1,254 miles long — roughly 1,000 miles of which has no barrier.

On a Fox Business Network program Friday, Abbott noted that the state-funded wall will cost less than the Trump-era estimates indicated because Texas will be using land the state already owns, versus having to acquire the land.

Unlike the border in California, Arizona or New Mexico, which is largely federal — or in some cases tribal — land, much of the Texas-Mexico border is privately owned, with some owners holding the titles to their property since the 1760s.

In September, the Texas Facilities Commission awarded an $11 million contract to a joint venture between Michael Baker International Inc. and Huitt-Zollars to manage the project, identify state land where barriers can be built and find “willing private landowners to facilitate construction,” according to the request for proposal.

The wall panels are being put up by Posillico Civil, Inc., which was awarded a contract not to exceed $162 million in November.

Texas Facilities Commission Chair Steven Alvis said at the news conference Saturday that the wall construction process has been moving expeditiously, noting that steps that usually “take two to three months took two to three days.” He said this stretch of wall went up in five days.

The Trump administration completed 55 miles of barrier along the Texas-Mexico border ー 21 miles of new barrier and 34 miles of replacement barrier.

Abbott has ramped up immigration enforcement in recent months, flooding the border with state troopers and National Guard personnel instructed to arrest migrants on state criminal charges. Just this week, immigrant and civil rights groups called on the Department of Justice to investigate the program. Abbott has also sued the Biden administration for attempting to reverse Trump-era immigration policies.

Texas Tribune

Comments

54 Comments

          1. Poor immigrants trying to better their lives are no threat to national security. National security threats are domestic terrorists like Greg Abbott, Donald Trump, Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Mark Meadows, FOX News, Roger Stone, and other treasonous filth.

    1. What an idiot! When the federal government fails to do it’s job on immigration matters prescribed by statute then it leaves no choice for the states to step up to the plate. It’s all senile Joe’s fault.

  1. He’s exactly right! Like when governor Abbott (R),had the audacity to attend the highly publicized photo-op funeral of the late martyred George Floyd.

  2. I’ll bet nitwit loser Beto won’t win the Democrat Primary this time around. Lots of other good Democrat candidates for morons like Char Lie Dumbo to vote for.

  3. No wall has ever worked to stop anyone from hopping over it. Immigration control is a complex subject that has never been properly addressed. Throwing up a wall is just a feeble effort by Abbot and others to show Daddy Trump that they are good little Trumpies.

  4. Every Gopher dignitary was in attendance for Abdulla “Taliban” Abbott’s latest stunt to draw Trump’s attention. MTGreen aka Sour Puss, Rafael Cruz, Boebert, and Jim Jordan were there for the wall party. Wait…they weren’t?? Guess they have their own “wall” to build and stay relevant to their own right-wing faction.

      1. Too late. Go look at your Abbot, and Trump yard signs! I think a dog already peed on them. Get new ones so I can pull them out and build a nice little bon fire with them on your street.

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