The state of Texas launched border wall construction along its border with Mexico, marking the first step in building a barrier to prevent noncitizens from illegally crossing into the United States.
“Building the wall in Texas has officially begun,” Republican Gov. Greg Abbott said during a press conference Wednesday afternoon, adding that construction was going on “as we speak.”
“There are state agencies talking to landowners on the border about putting up fencing on their private land to be able to prevent the dramatic influx that these landowners have been suffering from over the past few months,” Abbott said. “Anybody who comes through or around or near that barrier is subject to being arrested for aggravated trespass and because these counties are subject to a disaster declaration, the penalties for trespass have been enhanced so that they are at a minimum, a Class B misdemeanor or potentially a Class A misdemeanor, which means they could spend a long time behind jail for violating the trespass laws of Texas.”
The temporary barriers will later be replaced by taller, stronger barriers. The 450 miles of border wall installed under the Trump administration was slatted steel planks stretching 18 to 30 feet high.
In May, more than 180,000 people attempted to cross the border illegally or were denied entry at land ports of entry, the highest number in at least 21 years. Federal border authorities in Texas encountered more illegal immigrants, including families and unaccompanied children, than their counterparts in Arizona, California, or New Mexico.
“We are being invaded. That term has been used in the past, but it's never been more true,” said Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. “We’re on pace to apprehend nearly 2 million people this year, compared to [400,000] to 500,000 in the past. For everyone we catch, we don't know how many we don't catch.”
Abbott declared last week that he would finish former President Donald Trump's border wall to prevent noncitizens and drug smugglers from illegally crossing from Mexico into Texas. Since January, tens of thousands of people encountered by the Border Patrol have been released into the country instead of being returned to Mexico or other countries of origin. The releases have taken place despite tourists in Mexico and Canada not being permitted to enter the U.S. since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020.
The governor took the first step Wednesday to hire a program manager whose responsibility will be to oversee the large-scale construction project up and down the state’s 1,250-mile border with Mexico. Hundreds of miles of barrier will be installed, but exact figures will not be known until the program manager and contractors can determine what land is available for immediate construction.
“To speed [up] the process, as well as to lower the cost of the project, the project manager — the project manager can look to land that's already owned either by the state of Texas or owned by the local governments or owned by private citizens who want to volunteer that land for locations where a border wall can be placed,” Abbott said.
Abbott also shifted $250 million in money that was already appropriated as a down payment on the project.
Abbott then signed a letter to President Joe Biden, asking that the federal government relinquish control of lands it had seized during the Trump administration.
“I am demanding that the Biden administration immediately return to Texans land that the federal government took to build a wall,” he said. “Texas will talk to those property owners about Texas using that land to build the wall.”
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The state will roll out a website through which anyone can donate to the project, likely to cost billions of dollars if it is in line with the projects that were undertaken during the Trump administration. Wall construction includes technology, paved roads, and lighting, and it averaged $20 million per mile under Trump.
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Original Author: Anna Giaritelli
Original Location: Texas has begun building wall along border, Abbott says