TX to Spend $25M on 2-Mile Border Wall
In continuing the efforts made by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to produce a state-funded border wall, the Texas Department of Transportation has announced that it’s set to pay nearly $25 million for the construction of a roughly two-mile-long concrete border barrier.
Slated to be constructed in Eagle Pass, the project is also calling for a temporary fence near the right of way along State Loop 480, which the Department of Public Safety has reported to be a high-traffic area for immigration.
The Texas Tribune reports that the fence will cost the state $280,000, while the rest of the $25 million will be used to clear vegetation and construct the concrete barrier.
Pushing to Build
As aforementioned, the efforts made by Abbott, in addition to other legislators, to continue the halted construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall have been ongoing since President Joe Biden announced the project’s pause shortly after taking office.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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. Since then, the state fundraising campaign has reportedly raised about $936,000 in private donations.
As a result of Abbott’s efforts to secure the border, the Texas Facilities Commission officially announced that it was seeking a project manager for the proposed border wall project last month.
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 Tribune, a lawsuit against the federal government filed by Texas landowners whose land was claimed through eminent domain is currently on hold.
Eagle Pass Barrier
Spokesperson for the TxDOT, Ryan LaFontaine, has reported that the concrete barrier in Eagle Pass running along the same right of way will be able to remain permanently or could even be relocated if necessary.
According to Renae Eze, a spokesperson for Abbott, the project is part of three initiatives done in conjunction with the governor’s effort to secure the border, also known as “Operation Lone Star.” In it, the efforts aim to build a border wall, utilize strategic barriers and erect temporary fencing. The project specifically, is part of the effort to build strategic barriers.
Reports have indicated that funds for the contract are being taken from TxDOT’s maintenance division budget, but that the department anticipates a reimbursement. However, no information has been released regarding where that money would come from.
“A $25 million contract was awarded to a company to build a barrier at the border on state land that the Texas Department of Public Safety identified as a high traffic area for illegal immigration,” Eze said. “DPS has also been working with Texas Military Department engineers to identify locations for temporary fencing as a deterrent to illegal immigrants entering Texas.
“It’s clear from the Governor’s announcement that these are all separate and unique projects as part of his overall border security plan to protect Texans and our state.”
Construction on the barrier is slated to reach completion by December.
If costs remain consistent with the Eagle Pass barrier for TxDOT, it has been suggested that the total $250 million allotted for the border wall could build about 20 miles. However, the state of Texas is reported to have about 1,000 miles along its border where no barrier has been constructed.