SAN ANTONIO (KTSA News) — Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced his state-funded border wall plan Wednesday in Austin, which includes a $250 million down payment from the state treasury.
Abbott was joined at the press conference by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan and Senate Finance Chair Jane Nelson.
Abbott said that since the Biden Administration took power, the number of illegal immigrants crossing the border has gone up exponentially.
Abbott cited that just over 17,000 people were apprehended last April under the Trump administration versus April of this year when more than 170,000 people were apprehended.
“The type of people coming across the border is changing,” Abbott said. “Early on it was unaccompanied minors, now a majority of the people coming across the border are adults coming across alone.
Abbott also said there is a huge change to “the carnage that is being caused” by those crossing the border, citing the dismantling of ranch fencing causing livestock to get loose and lose crops, violent home invasions and people being threatened at gunpoint on a daily basis.
“Cartels, human and drug smugglers and traffickers are all profiting off our open border crisis,” Abbott said. “They’re making money from people that have come in from more than 150 different countries across the entire globe.”
Today’s executive order begins the process and Abbott said the first step is hiring a project manager. The program manager for the project will be hired by the Texas Facilities Commission.
“A program manager will lead the process of planning and scoping the project and hiring the contractors and subcontractors son needed to build the wall,” Abbott said.
Abbott also assigned a $250 million downpayment alongside a commitment to allocate more resources as they are needed. Abbott said a prospective budget could not be discussed because a program manager will work to make the necessary assessments on cost and length.
Abbott said the state will formally request the land acquired by the federal government for the original project be returned to owners and utilized for the state-run border wall construction project.
“Texas will talk to property owners about Texas using that land to build the wall,” Abbott said.
The state is also taking donations from citizens for the project online through the website borderwall.texas.gov and by mail. Abbott noted the donated funds will be overseen by the Texas Division of Emergency Management and the Office of the Governor.
“We expect full transparency and accountability so the public will know all the money coming and how that money is being used,” Abbott said.
The governor said the current presidential administration has abandoned its responsibility to apply federal law to border security and enforce immigration laws.
Abbott enacted a second disaster declaration during a visit to Del Rio that will concentrate on making border arrests by Texas DPS.
“You are going to see a lot more people put into jail,” Abbott said. “People who were crossing the border illegally and trespassing, or people who were engaging in the smuggling process or drug smuggling process, or any of these crimes occurring anywhere.”
To help accommodate the expected surge in people being incarcerated, Abbott said the Texas Commission on Jail Standards is working with counties to expand jail space, enhance
A multi-state compact was created to allow other states to provide border control support in the form of state national guards. Abbott said Oklahoma, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Georgia, South Carolina and Florida have either already sent or are in discussions to provide support for the border.
Phelan said that a special session will be called on this project, but no date was announced. During the special session, Phelan said there will be special hearings to give Texans affected by illegal immigration a chance to share their experiences.
Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush announced shortly after the press conference the project will receive emergency authorization on state lands to complete the border wall.
“We need to do all we can for our border communities,” Phelan said. “They are asking for help, they are seeking assistance from the state of Texas and that is why we are here today.”