The Republican Texas governor, Greg Abbott, has announced that the state will build a wall along its southern border with Mexico, sparking criticism from human rights and immigration advocacy groups.
Citing the Biden administration’s rollback of Trump-era immigration policies, Abbott announced the border wall plans amid other security measures including plans for Texas to construct its own detention centers and $1bn of the state’s budget being allocated to border security. Abbott also declared that more undocumented immigrants will be arrested and sent to local jails versus being turned over to US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, also known as Ice.
“I will announce next week the plan for the state of Texas to begin building the border wall,” said Abbott at a border security summit in Del Rio on Thursday.
“To be clear, this is an attempt to distract from his governing failures while targeting vulnerable migrants,” tweeted the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.
“There is no substantive plan,” said Edna Yang, the co-executive director of immigration advocacy and legal aid group American Gateways, in a statement obtained by the New York Times. “It’s not going to make any border community or county safer.”
“Governor Abbott is planning to steal Texans’ land for a political stunt,” tweeted Democratic Texas representative Joaquin Castro.
It is unclear if Texas has the authority to construct a border wall following Biden’s cancellation of such building projects. The Biden administration had already threatened to sue Texas earlier this week after Abbott ordered that the state-licenses be revoked for any federally contracted facility that houses migrant children.
Previous attempts to build a wall at the border, an ongoing campaign promise from former president Donald Trump, have been unsuccessful. Of the 1,000 miles of border wall Trump pledged to build on Mexico’s dime, only about 80 new miles of fencing that hadn’t existed before has been constructed. Trump also reinforced over 400 miles of barriers that already existed, using US taxpayer dollars to do so.
Joe Biden, who promised to halt border wall construction, signed an order on his first day in office that stopped building projects on the border, implementing a 60-day review on the border wall project, and calling for unused border wall funds to be redirected. Since then, the US Department of Defense cancelled parts of the wall that were being built using military funding, reappropriating unspent funds for previously deferred military construction projects.
Now, amid record increases in migrant children and families crossing the US-Mexican border, the Biden administration has struggled to handle the surge in migrations. Currently, authorities have continued rapidly expelling migrants who arrive at the border, following pandemic practices started by Trump, and while allowing others to enter the US while they await legal process, in federal facilities, since Biden revised and ended Trump’s Remain in Mexico asylum policy.
Republicans, including Abbott, have long criticized Biden’s rollbacks of Trump-era border policies, claiming that softer revisions are inspiring more attempts to cross the US-Mexico border. But, there has been little evidence that harsher border policies are effective. In particular, Trump’s border wall is scalable with common, $5 hardware store ladders.
Immigration advocates in Texas have also decried Abbott’s claims of a violent crisis at the border and previous policy efforts to police the southern border, arguing that assertions of rampant chaos are inaccurate and previous actions have done little to address migration concerns. In March, following declarations of drug smuggling and human trafficking at the border, Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, deploying hundreds of agents and government resources to posts along the US-Mexico border.