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TX Governor Announces $250M for Border Wall

Friday, June 18, 2021

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Earlier this week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a $250 million down payment for the construction of hundreds of miles of border wall.

Joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and more than two dozen Texas lawmakers, Abbott signed documents on Wednesday (June 16), authorizing several actions to address immigration—including the state-led border wall project—and aid overwhelmed border law enforcement.

“Remember that the border was far more under control under the Trump administration until President Biden came,” Abbott said, criticizing 2020 migrant apprehension numbers to those reported in 2021. “But the biggest difference between the two administrations is a difference in commitment.”

Pushing to Build

While Abbott has been reportedly vowing to build the border wall over the last few weeks, the determination to complete the project has been ongoing since President Joe Biden announced that the project was halted following his inauguration.

In March, Republican Texas House Representative Bryan Slaton presented new legislation regarding the relaunch of construction on the U.S.-Mexico border wall and other border security enhancement projects within the state.

The House Bill No. 2862 claims that it would create a fund to pay for the projects—including planning, designing, constructing and maintaining transportation and water infrastructure along the Texas portion of the border wall—and would allocate the earnings on the balance of the fund and reimbursement of related expenditures.

H.B. 2862 also intends to pay for technology and commercial vehicle inspection facilities along ports of entry and prohibits the clearing of indigenous plants, unless overridden by certain state or federal authorities.

According to the legislation, contractors incorporated in Texas or who maintain its headquarters or principal office within the state would be given priority in awarding contracts. In addition, the proposed bill stipulates that the governor of Texas would seek reimbursement from the federal government for amounts spent from border wall project funds.

However, if passed, reports indicate that the legislation could struggle with receiving those reimbursements.

In May, Congressman Clay Higgins, a republican from Louisiana and ranking member of the House Homeland Security Subcommittee on Border Security, became the second lawmaker to introduce legislation for restarting construction of the border wall system.

At the time of its introduction, the Finish the Wall Act reportedly had more than 60 cosponsors and is one of the House Republicans’ five pillars to address what they deem the Biden border crisis.

According to a report by Bloomberg, in April, roughly 172,000 migrants were apprehended at the U.S.-Mexico border—more than the nation has seen in two decades.

Regarding his legislative plan, Higgins stated, “Through executive decree, President Biden halted work on the border wall system, created large security gaps, ended thousands of construction jobs, violated signed contracts, and left behind huge stockpiles of high-quality steel stacked on private land and unused.

Main points of the bill include:

  • Resume border wall system construction activities within 24 hours of enactment;
  • Prevent the Department of Homeland Security Secretary from canceling construction contracts related to the border wall system;
  • Require the DHS Secretary to spend all funds appropriated or obligated to the border wall system since Fiscal Year 2017;
  • Direct the DHS Secretary to submit an implementation plan to Congress, including benchmarks for the deployment of physical barriers, technology, roads, and lighting; and
  • Ensure U.S. Customs and Border Protection facilities are fully compliant with the DNA Fingerprint Act of 2005.

The bill also plans to reinstate the Remain in Mexico policy, maintain Title 42 authority and equire a negative COVID test before releasing migrants.

However, according to reports, the legislation is noted to contradict border wall elements in the $1.5 trillion discretionary funding request Biden sent to the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee last month. Although the White House did not ask for any new border wall construction funding and wants any unobligated border wall money to be canceled, it did request $1.2 billion for technology and other non-construction projects at the border.

Some members of Congress have pushed back against the policy, requesting that U.S. Government Accountability Office Comptroller Gene L. Dodaro to provide a legal opinion as to whether Biden violated the Impoundment Control Act by pausing construction.

From 2018-21, Congress was reported to have allocated $1.4 billion for wall projects, including repair and replacement.

It wouldn’t be until June when Abbott would publicly announce his vow to expand the wall along Texas with Mexico and increase the arrests of migrants trying to enter the country.

“Only Congress and the president can fix our broken border,” Abbott said at a summit focused on border security. “But in the meantime, Texas is going to do everything possible, including beginning to make arrests, to keep our community safe.”

At the time of the announcement, Abbott stated that the upcoming initiatives included more than $1 billion in funding, already approved by the new state budget for border security. In addition, the creation of a task force on border security was also in the works, as well intentions to sign an interstate compact with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey that would call on states to assist in arrests by sending resources such as drones and helicopters.

While little details were given about the plans to revive former President Donald Trump’s border wall, Abbott ensured that they would presented in the coming days.

“The ability to arrest will be enhanced by building border barriers,” Abbott said. “Anybody who tries to modify, attempt or get through any of these border barriers — that unto itself is a crime for which they can be arrested.” Adding, “We will be arresting a lot more people in the future.”

In a more recent report on the border’s illegal crossings, U.S. Customs and Border Protection data revealed a new 20-year high, with American authorities intercepting 180,034 migrants along the Mexico border in May.

Regardless, the plans for the wall don’t come without backlash. In a statement to The Washington Post, Kate Huddleston, a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, said that Abbott’s plan “threatens to once again rip families apart at the border,” adding that the governor was “undermining the right to seek asylum by jailing those fleeing danger and punishing them for seeking refuge in the U.S.”

“Abbott is yet again scapegoating immigrants in an effort to distract from his own failures in governing and managing actual crises in Texas—like the historic winter storm that led to the deaths of more than 150 Texans—with cruel results,” Huddleston added.

There was no mention if Mexico would be involved in the project with Texas.

Plans in the Works

In seeking a third term as governor of the state of Texas, Abbott was recently endorsed by former Trump and expects his visit at the Texas-Mexico border later this month.

With his $250 million down payment in place and plans in the works, Abbott has since authorized state officials to begin the search for a program manager for the border wall, opened a donation portal for the project and called on landowners willing to volunteer their properties for construction. In addition, Abbott also sent a letter to Biden requesting that all land taken by the federal government for border wall construction under Trump be returned to landowners.

Although local law enforcement and state troopers are being further encouraged to arrest and charge migrants with trespassing, vandalism and other misdemeanors, concerns still linger over where inmates will be kept. While the governor has promised to build jail capacity in small communities, there is no current capacity for the hundreds who cross the Rio Grande every day.

With intensions to move forward with the plans, others are still sharing their own concerns and criticisms.

“You don’t put more resources into a policy that’s failed us,” said Judge Richard Cortez. “Arresting people isn’t going to solve the issue of people coming in the first place. All it does is delay the ultimate inevitability of release. You spend six months in jail, now what? We are back to where we were.”

To many private landowners, the idea still isn’t hugely popular either, just as it hadn't been when Trump was in office. When asked at the border summit who would volunteer their land for border fence or wall construction, no one raised their hand.

Despite the mix of responses, Abbott insists that border barriers will “slow the incredible inflow” and create “no-trespass zones” so that more arrests can be made.

“It is my belief based upon conversations that I’ve already had is that the combination of state land and volunteer land will yield hundreds of miles to build a border wall in Texas,” he said.

   

Tagged categories: Government; Government contracts; Infrastructure; NA; North America; President Biden; President Trump; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Upcoming projects

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