87th LegislatureElections 2022FederalImmigration & BorderIssuesTaxes & SpendingTexas Begins Construction on ‘First Phase’ of State Border Wall After Funding Receives Bipartisan Support

The Texas legislature passed over $1 billion in funding for the wall during a special session earlier this year.
December 20, 2021
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At a press conference in Rio Grande City on Saturday, Governor Greg Abbott appeared with Land Commissioner George P. Bush to showcase a portion of the “first phase” of the Texas border wall project the governor announced in June.

“Today not only represents the first phase of the Texas border wall, but it also serves as a major milestone in our efforts to combat illegal immigration, stop the smuggling of drugs and people, and keep our communities safe,” Abbott said.

On November 18, the Texas Facilities Commission (TFC) approved a contract with Posillico Civil, Inc. worth up to $162 million for border wall construction.

The first portions of the barrier are being constructed on property the state owns in Starr County, and the Texas legislature prohibited the use of eminent domain for the wall using the funds it has appropriated for that purpose.

Abbott encouraged Americans to donate to the border wall project, which has been partially funded by Timothy Mellon, a billionaire from Wyoming who has supported Republican candidates in the past. Mellon donated more than $53 million to the project in August.

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Underscoring violence committed as a result of illegal immigration, Abbott referenced the criminal case against 18-year-old Esteban Cantu Jr., an alleged human smuggler who reportedly crashed into a vehicle and killed two people while being pursued by police.

According to Hidalgo County jail records, Cantu was booked December 14 on two charges of murder, one charge of evading arrest or detention causing death, six charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and six counts of smuggling of persons causing serious bodily injury or death. The records indicate the teenager’s address is in Mission.

In response to a reporter’s question about the cost of the barrier to Texas taxpayers, Abbott contended that it is unacceptable Texans have been left holding the bag, but the federal government’s inaction has necessitated state action.

“We’re only doing it because the federal government refuses to enforce the laws passed by the United States Congress,” the governor said.

For his part, Bush aligned himself with Abbott and commended border guards and other law enforcement officials across the state for working over the Christmas holiday.

“That starts with our border patrol, our guardsmen, Department of Public Safety, county officials, local law enforcement,” Bush said. “Everybody is pitching in in this historic fashion to withstand the largest surge of illegal immigration that we have seen in our lifetimes.”

Bush is seeking the Republican nomination for attorney general, along with incumbent Ken Paxton, former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman, and Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-TX-01).

Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw, Sen. Kelly Hancock (R-North Richland Hills), and Rep. James White (R-Hillister) were also present with Abbott at the press conference.

Earlier this year, Abbott began surging resources to the southern border via an effort called Operation Lone Star (OLS). DPS told The Texan last week that at least 8,900 criminals and 82,200 illegal aliens have been taken into custody through OLS.

As early as March, Rep. Bryan Slaton (R-Royse City) had filed legislation to finish former President Trump’s border wall after President Biden ended construction when he was inaugurated.

While Democrats typically object to the wall and characterize it as an unnecessary expense to taxpayers, funding for the project received support from both sides of the aisle. The Texas legislature passed a bill in August during the second called session to spend more than $1 billion on the barrier.

Abbott launched the border wall project as part of OLS after Chad Prather and Don Huffines announced they would challenge Abbott in the Republican primary. Allen West announced his run for governor on Independence Day. The primary election is on March 1, 2022.

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Hayden Sparks

Hayden Sparks is a reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."