AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott gave more details about his plan to build a wall along the Texas-Mexico border during a news conference Wednesday.
"Building the wall in Texas has officially begun," said Abbott.
During the news conference, Gov. Abbott signed a letter to the executive director of the Texas Facilities Commission, instructing him to begin the process of hiring a program manager who will oversee land acquisition, hire contractors and manage construction of the border wall.
Then Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick (R), Speaker of the House Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) and the Senate and House Finance Chairs signed a document, allocating $250 million toward the wall project.
"That's a quarter of a billion dollars and it's more than enough to hire the project manager and the contractors, and to begin building the wall," Abbott said. "And we are committed to adding more resources as needed going forward."
Part of the plan to add resources is to accept donations from the public. The governor announced the creation of a website and fund to build the wall. Gov. Abbott said the money will be managed by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Governor's Office and promised the public will have full transparency to see how the funds are used.
The move was expected after Abbott said in a podcast Tuesday that he will be asking for donations to help fund the wall.
While the exact details of where the wall will be built and how long it will be are unknown, Gov. Abbott said the wall will be constructed on a combination of state-owned land and private land.
During the news conference, Abbott also signed a letter to President Joe Biden, asking the federal government to surrender the land it acquired from Texas landowners under the Trump Administration for wall constriction, back to the private citizens. The governor said the state will then work with those landowners to build its wall on the same land. He added some state staffers have already talked with private landowners and are putting up fences on their property along the border.
Gov. Abbott said residents and county leaders along the border have asked him to issue a disaster declaration in response to the "tidal wave of illegal immigrants" crossing into Texas. A disaster declaration would open the door for more aid.
"To the people who live in border regions, you have been begging for help. You've been demanding a response. You've pled with urgency to be protected, to be supported, to be heard, to have a response. I told you that Texas would step up and respond. Today we begin that response," said Abbott.
Gov. Abbott said the motivation for constructing this wall is to protect not just Texas, but other states that are affected by the influx of crime and drugs coming across the Texas border. According to Abbott, during the first four months of 2021, the Department of Public Safety (DPS) has seized enough fentanyl to kill 21 million Americans at the border.
He also shot down accusations that the wall project is a political stunt.
"Anyone who thinks this is politics doesn't have a clue what's going on on the border. Anyone who thinks this is politics doesn't care about American citizens or Texas residents," Abbott said. "Anyone who thinks this is politics doesn't care about the lives of people who had a gun stuck to their head by someone who came across the border. Doesn't care about their kids who have been harmed. Doesn't care about the homes that have been invaded. Doesn't care about the danger these people live with every single day. It's our job to keep these people safe."
Experts say building a wall along the Texas-Mexico border will have its challenges. In the Rio Grande Valley, a river marks the international boundary between the United States and Mexico. And several structures sit on the border including parks, schools and even a pumphouse.
There is also a “great diversity” of land ownership, from private property to urban areas, in Texas according to Director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy Tony Payan.
On his first day in office, President Biden halted construction of the border wall that was started by former President Donald Trump. Last week, President Biden announced his administration will return $2 billion earmarked by the Trump Administration for a border wall to the Pentagon.
The White House said the former administration has misplaced priorities in its efforts to build a wall, noting that during the Trump administration 52 miles of wall were built where no previous barrier existed and it cost as much as $46 million per mile to build.
Former President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he is set to visit the border with Abbott on Wednesday, June 30.
During Wednesday's press conference, Abbott credited Trump for the border's security so far and said the border was "a lot more secure" under the Trump Administration.
Trump said in a press release that President Biden’s administration has created the “single worst border crisis in U.S. history.” He also added that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris not visiting the border or visiting with Border Patrol or Immigration and Customs Enforcement doesn’t help the “unmitigated disaster zone.”
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