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Gov. Greg Abbott: Texas will build border wall amid 'unprecedented crisis'

Nicole Cobler, Austin American-Statesman on

Published in News & Features

AUSTIN, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott said Thursday that Texas will build a border wall, although he did not provide details on the cost or location — or how Texas would pay for it.

"I will announce next week the plan for the state of Texas to begin building the border wall in the state of Texas," said Abbott, who spoke after meeting with local and state officials in Del Rio about border security.

Abbott held the meeting amid his ongoing dispute with the Biden administration over a recent surge in border crossings. Administration officials on Monday threatened to sue Texas over Abbott's plan to force state-licensed shelters contracted with the federal government to stop housing migrant children.

The governor has placed a heightened focus on the border in recent months, declaring a disaster in counties along the border because of record numbers of encounters with migrants.

“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows," Abbott said. "This is an unprecedented crisis, and Texas is responding with the most robust and comprehensive border plan the nation has ever seen.”

One of Biden's first acts as president was to end construction of former President Donald Trump's border wall, instead vowing to increase technology at ports of entry and create more humane border policies.

Abbott has blamed Biden's approach for an uptick in arrivals at the border, launching in March "Operation Lone Star," which he said would address border issues. The initiative involves sending air, ground, marine and tactical units to “high threat areas,” according to Abbott’s office.

 

Apprehensions along the Texas-Mexico border have surged since the start of the year, and in April, Border Patrol agents took more than 178,000 people into custody along the border — the highest monthly total in two decades, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection data. In May, more than 180,000 migrants were apprehended at the border, nearly eight times higher than May 2020.

Abbott's disaster declaration ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety to enforce all federal and state criminal laws, including illegal entry, smuggling, criminal trespassing and human trafficking, and directed two Texas agencies to work with counties to increase jail capacity in the area.

The governor also announced the creation of a task force to meet bi-weekly and make recommendations. The task force includes officials from the governor's office, the Texas attorney general's office, DPS, the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Texas Military Department and more.

State and local law enforcement in general do not have the authority to enforce federal immigration laws but can provide direct assistance to federal agents to deter and detect criminal activity.

Texas has spent roughly $3.5 billion to secure the border since 2014, and Abbott has deployed 1,000 DPS troopers to the border this year, according to the governor's declaration.

Texas lawmakers directed more than $1 billion to border security over the next two years, a record amount and an increase in border spending of more than $200 million over the previous two-year spending plan. The final draft of the massive state budget awaits the governor's signature.

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