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This is Texas hold ‘em – why Texas is fighting the US government to secure its border with Mexico

Mark P Jones, Rice University, The Conversation on

Published in Political News

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are both traveling to Texas border towns on Feb. 29, 2024, and are expected to fault each other for chaos in border enforcement and the high number of undocumented migrant crossings.

Their dueling visits follow a failed Senate proposal to tighten border security and make it tougher for people to get asylum in the U.S. They also coincide with Americans’ rising concern about immigration.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been battling with the Biden administration since 2021 over the state’s ability to secure its border with Mexico. Under Abbott’s leadership, Texas has sent Texas National Guard troops and state troopers to its 1,254-mile-long border with Mexico. Texas is the only border state that has built its own wall, partially dividing itself from Mexico. Texas has also constructed more than 100 miles of other barriers along the border.

I am a scholar of Texas politics and government at Rice University’s Baker Institute. Texas’ attempts to control its border with Mexico and intervene on immigration issues – historically both the responsibility of the federal government – derive in part from the fact that many Texans believe that their Lone Star State is unique.

Texas, for starters, is the largest U.S. state among the lower 48, geographically speaking, and the second-most populous after California. It has a distinct state culture and the history of being an independent republic.

Today, Texas is the most powerful and influential red state pushing back against the Biden administration on many policy issues. It is also home to a small but growing political movement advocating for Texas to secede from the U.S. and become an independent country.

 

There is a great deal of truth to the popular saying that everything is bigger in Texas.

Texas is now enmeshed in a series of skirmishes with the Biden administration over border security and immigration. Abbott, bolstered by the unanimous support of Texas Republicans who dominate the state legislature, and Republican voters, has made Texas more involved in day-to-day border security and immigration enforcement than any state in recent history.

In December 2023, Abbott signed controversial new state legislation that makes it a state crime to cross the border without a visa. This legislation, which goes into effect in March 2024, also gives Texas authorities the right to deport undocumented migrants – which is generally considered the federal government’s responsibility.

Abbott’s border security interventions are funded by a 2021 state initiative called Operation Lone Star. During the program’s first two years, Texas spent US$4.4 billion on a multifaceted strategy that includes, for example, sending Texas National Guard troops to the border. In some cases, these National Guard troops have blocked U.S. Border Patrol agents from patrolling the border.

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