McALLEN, Texas – Governor Greg Abbott of Texas on Thursday said the state would build a border wall with Mexico, providing few details on the construction that would extend one of former President Donald J. Trump’s favorite projects.
It is unclear whether the state has the power to build a wall in an attempt to deter immigrants, the majority of whom fled poverty and violence in Central America.
Speaking at a meeting with state law enforcement officials in Del Rio, a small border town that has seen a large influx of immigrants since President Biden took office in January, Mr Abbott said he expected to announce more details on the wall next week.
Mr Abbott explained that he would start by putting up barriers to identify people trying to cross the border and deploying additional law enforcement officers to help the border patrol. He blamed the increase in migrant crossings on Mr. Biden’s unwinding of Mr. Trump’s restrictive border rules.
“It’s out of control and a change is needed,” he said. “Some of these border barriers will be built immediately. “
Then the governor revealed, to thunderous applause, that Texas would also be building a border wall.
“While securing the border is the responsibility of the federal government, Texas will not stand idly by as this crisis worsens,” Abbott said, adding, “Our efforts will only be effective if we let’s work together to secure the border, make criminal arrests, protect landowners, rid our communities of dangerous drugs and provide Texans with the support they need and deserve.
In March, Mr Abbott implemented what he called Operation Lone Star, which deploys hundreds of agents and assets along the southwest border to combat human trafficking. humans, drugs and weapons, said Victor Escalon, regional director for the Texas Department of Public Safety. But deciding to build a border wall may be a first for a state executive.
Mr Abbott’s announcement was quickly criticized by immigration advocates, who said it would most likely face legal challenges.
“There is no substantive plan,” said Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways, a Texas immigration and legal aid and advocacy group. “It will not make any border community or any county safer. “
The Texas Civil Liberties Union tweeted, “To be clear, this is an attempt to deflect attention from its governance failures while targeting vulnerable immigrants.”
Mr. Trump has made the border wall a signature campaign pledge and has often urged his homeland security officials to speed up construction on the project, thereby forgoing federal contract and environmental laws.
During his campaign, Mr. Trump promised that Mexico would pay for the wall, but instead redirected billions of Defense Department funds that were originally intended for anti-narcotics or construction programs. His administration eventually built over 450 miles of new wall, mostly in areas where dilapidated barriers once stood. Most of the construction took place in Arizona, where migrants are already struggling over rough terrain to cross the border, rather than in South Texas, an area prone to illegal crossings.
Private South Texas landowners have emerged as an obstacle to Mr. Trump’s building, many resisting the administration’s efforts to seize their land through a prominent estate. And then Mr. Biden suspended construction of the wall on his first day in office, as part of a series of moves to roll back Mr. Trump’s immigration program.
The Biden administration and Mr Abbott have clashed over how to deal with the thousands of unaccompanied minors who have crossed the border in recent months. The administration was unable to redirect federal disaster relief funds to help with border processing when Mr Abbott refused to give consent.
At the time, Mr Abbott said the federal government, not Texas, was responsible for asserting control of the border.
When migrant children filled detention centers run by the Border Patrol, the Biden administration responded by opening temporary facilities at a Dallas convention center, San Antonio sports arena and other vacant sites across the country. country. While Vice President Kamala Harris was in Guatemala this week, she discouraged potential migrants from going to the border by telling them, “Don’t come.
The Biden administration still uses a pandemic emergency rule, known as Title 42, which allows border officials to quickly return most single adults and many families crossing the border to Mexican authorities. . Mr Biden has exempted unaccompanied minors from the policy, which prevents most other migrants from having the opportunity to seek asylum.
Some families, however, were able to enter Texas due to a change in Mexican law that prohibited the detention of young immigrant children and a lack of accommodation capacity south of the border. Instead of detaining these families, the US authorities are releasing many in communities in Texas.