Abbott at the wall

Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders recently debuted the construction of the new portion of the Texas-Mexico border wall in Rio Grande City, near McAllen.

AUSTIN — Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders kicked off the construction Saturday of the new portion of the Texas-Mexico border wall in Rio Grande City, near McAllen.

The newest portion of the wall is the first installment of a state-funded physical barrier since Abbott made it a priority in June to enhance security along the Texas-Mexico border.

“Texas is taking what truly is unprecedented action by any state ever for a state to build a wall on our border to secure and safeguard the sovereignty of the United States as well as our own state,” Abbott said.

This year, the Texas Legislature appropriated about $3 billion in state funding to the construction of the wall.

A portion of the total funding includes allocations from House Bill 9, which earmarked $1.88 billion in state funding for border security over the next two years. Of that, $1.02 billion is for barrier construction, local grants and establishing processing centers; and $3.75 million is allocated for Border Prosecution Unit funding. Earlier this year, legislatures already approved $1.05 billion for the same purpose.

The state's Public Safety Office announced Monday it will award $38.4 million for law enforcement, jail operations and court administration activities in direct support of Operation Lone Star. OLS, launched in March, was formed to combat the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas. It integrates the Department of Public Safety with the Texas National Guard and deploys air, ground, marine and tactical border security assets to "high threat areas" along the border, per a news release.

Abbott also diverted $250 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for the wall in June.

“We’re going to spend as much as it takes to build as much wall as we can,” Abbott said.

Abbott added that the state has also raised about $54 million in donations from Americans toward constructing the wall. Reporting by The Texas Tribune found that almost all of it — about $53.1 million — came from out-of-state billionaire Timothy Mellon.

The total cost, as well as the cost per mile, was not immediately available. Costs are expected to differ based on geography and different wall types best suited for the area, Abbott said. The Biden Administration has said construction of the wall cost taxpayers up to $46 million per mile under the Trump Administration.

Abbott said the wall will help law enforcement to crack down on both illegal drugs and illegal crossings

Abbott 1.2 million individuals that have been apprehended at the border so far this year, as well as large amounts of fentanyl -- overdoses are the leading cause of death of adults ages 18-45, according to a government report.

“There are deadly consequences because of Biden's open border policies,” Abbott said. “It is those deadly consequences that the state of Texas is stepping up to address through multiple strategies, including this unprecedented effort to build a border wall.”

The erection of border walls was supported with federal funding long before Donald Trump made it a catch phrase. President Joe Biden issued a pause to the construction of the wall immediately upon taking office in January, but the federal government has funded and constructed several hundred miles of physical fencing along the border consistently with each administration since George H. W. Bush.

By 2011, during Barack Obama’s tenure, the Department of Homeland Security stated about 650 miles of fencing had been constructed across the entire 1,954 mile U.S.-Mexico border. An additional 50 miles of new wall where previously none stood was added during the Trump administration.

The Department of Homeland Security also announced Monday that it will use border security funding to close gaps in unfinished walls following the pause in January and complete environmental and clean-up projects in areas where border construction was taking place.

“The people of Texas finally said enough is enough — enough of open borders, enough of disorderly chaos led by coyotes, smugglers and traffickers and folks that would do harm to our state,” said Commissioner of the General Land Office George P. Bush. “If the Washington D.C. establishment doesn't do their job, Texas will.”

Texas Sen. Cesar Blanco, who represents part of El Paso, has opposed building the wall, saying it is the most expensive and least effective way to secure the border. 

"It's a huge waste of taxpayer money," he said previously.

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