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TX Prepares to Begin Border Wall Bidding

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

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The Texas Facilities Commission has recently announced its intentions to seek a project manager for the construction of a border wall.

 

The preparation arrives after Gov. Greg Abbott issued an emergency declaration regarding the state’s southern border immigration crisis late last month, in addition to his recent authorization of a $250 million down payment for the construction of hundreds of miles of border wall.

 

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 paused following his inauguration.

In March, Republican Texas House Rep. 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.

 

grandriver / Getty Images

The Texas Facilities Commission has recently announced its intensions to seek a project manager for the construction of a border wall.

 

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.

 

Later that month, Abbott was joined by Joined by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick and more than two dozen Texas lawmakers, in signing off on the authorization of several actions to address immigration—including the state-led border wall project—and aid overwhelmed border law enforcement.

 

With his $250 million down payment in place and plans in the works, Abbott also 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.

 

By the end of the month, Abbott issued a disaster declaration regarding the immigration crisis, which he plans to use to fund and construct the project. In addition, the project plans to receive funding through a crowdfunding campaign that asks citizens to donate.

 

In the week that it was announced, the campaign raised $459,000 within the first week.

 
What Now
 

As a result of Abbott’s efforts to secure the border, the Texas Facilities Commission has officially announced that it is seeking a project manager for the proposed border wall project. At the beginning of July, the TFC was reported to be accessing the resource requirements to fulfill the project mandate and gathering information from partners across several states agencies to develop the scope of the request for proposal.

 

By the middle of the month, TFC staff had begun to perform extensive research and due diligence to define the scope of the anticipated RFP for a program manager. A technical consultant was also assisting with the development of the RFP to further expedite the process.

 

According to commission communication specialist Francoise Luca, while the solicitation hasn’t publicly been posted at this time, soon it will be available, here, and that any firm could opt in to be considered for the project.

 

One issue the project expects to face, however, is land parcels that are privately owned. According to the Texas Tribune, a lawsuit against the federal government filed by Texas landowners whose land was claimed through eminent domain is currently on hold.

 

   

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

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