(Bethany Blankley – The Center Square) Gov. Greg Abbott has debuted the construction of a part of the Texas border wall in Rio Grande City six months after he announced Texas would be building its own border wall.
“Texas is taking what truly is unprecedented action by any state ever for a state to build a wall on our border to secure the sovereignty of the United States as well as our own state,” Abbott said Saturday. “And this unprecedented action is needed for one single reason, and that’s because the Biden administration has failed to do its job as required by law as passed by Congress to enforce the immigration laws of the United States of America.”
Abbott cited the untold number of people being trafficked across the border as part of a massive modern-day slavery endeavor, and the unprecedented amount of drugs being smuggled into the country.
The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) has confiscated enough fentanyl to kill everyone living in Texas, California, New York, Illinois and Florida, Abbott said. Citing a report that came out Friday, Abbott said, the number one cause of death for Americans between the ages of 18 and 45 “isn’t COVID-19, car wrecks, or cancer, it’s fentanyl.
“Joe Biden has facilitated the death of those people by the open border policies that he has allowed to take place here in Texas,” Abbott said. “And it must be stopped. The people who are making money off of this are the gangs and the cartels that our DPS and National Guard are working to apprehend every single day.”
The wall is steel and constructed in a similar fashion as the wall erected by the Trump administration, but the portion debuted Saturday was made by a local Texas company, McAllen Strong Steel.
The Texas border wall construction is part of a multifaceted approach the state of Texas has taken since Abbott initiated Operation Lone Star in March. It also is part of a $3 billion initiative approved by the Texas Legislature to fund border security efforts in Texas.
Abbott said the National Guard already has been putting up border barriers along the Texas-Mexico border, including container ships and razor wire, boat barricades in the water and fencing on private property.
The governor was joined by Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush, Texas DPS Director Steve McCraw and several state and local officials.
Texas Facilities Commission Chair Steven Alvis said workers have been putting up 200 feet of wall a day and things that normally would take two-to-three months have taken two-to-three days with people working around the clock to get things done in record time.
While they have followed every safety and legal protocol, they also have streamlined every step, Alvis said, after awarding the first contract 22 days ago, and shutting down for only three days because of weather.
Texas shares 1,254 miles with Mexico, and the areas where the wall is being built first was identified by Texas DPS, Alvis said.
The Texas General Land Office manages the land the wall debuted Saturday is built on. It is part of land leased to a local farmer who sees about 100 illegal immigrants cross his fields every day, Bush said.
The wall is being built on state land and private property, Abbott reiterated. In response to a question, he said, “the federal government has no authority whatsoever to interfere with our efforts to secure our state.”
When asked how much taxpayers were spending to fund the wall’s construction, Abbott replied, “They are paying far more than they should have to pay. We are only doing this because the federal government won’t enforce immigration law. Because Biden isn’t doing that, Texas taxpayers are having to step up and do his job.”
The cost per mile differs depending on the location and the type of material required, Abbott said. While he wouldn’t commit to a total estimated projected amount to build the wall, he said the cost “will be as much as it takes to build as much wall as we possibly can.”
One of Biden’s first acts in office was to halt construction of the border wall, which had been authorized by Congress in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2020.
Congress allocated $1.375 billion to construct the wall along the southwest border. The Department of Homeland Security Appropriations Act provided the same amount of funds, bringing the total to about $3 billion.
Much of the federal wall materials already paid for by taxpayers were left on the ground by the unfinished sections of the border wall built under the Trump administration. It currently costs taxpayers $3 million a day to not build the wall because of contractual obligations with the construction firm tasked with building it.