In mid-June, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott promised to strengthen the state’s border in an effort to deter ongoing drug and people smuggling, citing a 21-year peak in illegal immigration at the 1,950-mile southern border.
As he seeks a third term, Abbott’s vow to finish former President Donald Trump’s border wall in Texas will likely be the largest project the state conducts during his administration.
Texas has a larger international border than Arizona, California, and New Mexico, which are all border states.
On the remaining 1,100 miles, Abbott wants to build a wall. It’s a hefty task—even for the vast state of Texas—at an average cost of $20 million per mile, reports the Washington Examiner.
For Central American migrants going from Mexico’s southern border, the southern point of Texas is approximately half the distance as California, making the trek considerably shorter and less expensive.
Migrants have considerably less problems crossing the border in Texas than in other states since just 12% of the area is protected from entry by a government-funded barrier. Recognizing this, the Republican governor put down a $250 million deposit on the project and engaged a program manager to start designing where a wall should be erected.
The border between the United States and Mexico is approximately 145 miles long. 90 miles of it was built as part of the 2006 Secure Fence Act, which President Joe Biden supported for despite later changing his mind as a presidential contender in 2019 and 2020, opposing infrastructure between ports of entry. The barrier that was put up at the time is still there, stands about 10 feet tall, and CBP no longer considers it suitable to deter crossings.
The remaining 55 miles of the 145-mile network were put in place during Trump’s presidency. Between 2017 through 2021, Congress financed wall projects every year. The White House demanded more than Congress could provide, citing a national emergency to divert funds from the Defense Department. Texas was supposed to get 280 miles of wall for $3.2 billion, but contractors were only able to finish 235 miles by the time Trump left office in January.
The 55 miles of barrier built under Trump are constructed of slatted steel beams and stand at least 30 feet tall. Because more than a dozen projects were not completed when Biden stopped them this spring, there are still parts and pieces up and down the border, including in El Paso’s western sector, the Rio Grande Valley’s southeastern region, and the Del Rio region in south-central Texas. Near larger ports of entry, portions of the border that are only a few miles long spring up, but for the most part, Texas is vast open, with merely ranch fences in many places.
Texas is the state where the majority of illegal immigration occurs
Over 897,000 individuals were apprehended on the southern border in fiscal year 2021 for attempting to enter the nation illegally from Mexico. Texas was home to more than half of all illegal border crossings.
More individuals cross the border in the Rio Grande Valley than anywhere else in Mexico. Between October and May, 271,000 noncitizens, mostly children and families, were found along the 320-mile border between the two nations along the Rio Grande.
The Laredo and Big Bend areas are to the west. A total of 195,000 individuals have been detained here, mostly adults from Mexico and immigrants from countries outside of Central America, such as Bangladesh, Haiti, and Venezuela. Big Bend is exceedingly isolated, and CBP has long considered it to be a region where wall construction is not a priority since the desert itself discourages individuals from crossing. However, agents have noticed an increase in traffic in this area.
The El Paso Sector of the Border Patrol is responsible for the final 90 miles of western Texas and all of New Mexico. The agency does not discriminate between migrant apprehensions in Texas and New Mexico in its data. So far this year, it has reported 113,000 arrests.
Where will the new wall be built first?
The overall cost of the more than 700 miles of wall that the Trump administration intended to build was estimated to be around $15 billion, implying that Texas may be on the line for as much as $22 billion if prices continue to rise at this rate. Paved roadways, camera towers, lights, and electronics were all part of the recently financed wall system.
Given that the majority of human smuggling occurs in southern Texas, the state may begin plugging in minor gaps between existing fences there. On the other hand, Texas may have difficulty obtaining land control, which is required before construction can begin. There has never been a precedent for a state acquiring land to construct an international border.
Obtaining privately owned and protected federal property in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo contributed to the delay in erecting a wall in Texas under Trump. Because the US government is expected to hold a substantial piece of property along the international border, Abbott would have to buy it from Washington, D.C., but given Biden’s opposition to the border wall, the administration may refuse to sell it to him.
Texas might utilize eminent domain to gain control of private land. Eminent domain is a legal procedure in which the government compensates a landowner in return for private land. Under Trump, the US attempted this strategy, and it is still fighting landowners in Texas who refuse to sign over their property.
During a news conference on Thursday, Abbott claimed that authorities are already in contact with landowners who may be prepared to donate their property for development, potentially indicating where his government plans to deploy the excavators first.