AUSTIN, Texas (THE TEXAS TRIBUNE, KXAN) — Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday began announcing details of his plan for Texas to build its own border wall, starting the hiring process for a program manager and providing $250 million in state funds as a “down payment.”
“Texas will build a border wall in our state to help secure our border,” Abbott said.
Abbott along with Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, Speaker Dade Phelan, Sen. Jane Nelson and Rep. Greg Bonnen signed a letter Wednesday during the press conference allowing a transfer of $250 million to launch border wall construction and to pay for a program manager and contractors.
“This funding is a down payment to begin design and construction of physical barriers on voluntarily donated private and public lands that border this state and Mexico,” the letter reads.
The $250 million will come out of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s allocations for Fiscal Year 2023 and go to the Disaster Funds for Fiscal Year 2022, according to the letter.
“State leadership will identify funding to ensure that the functions of TDCJ are not impacted by this transfer,” the letter reads.
The state budget also allocates $1.1 billion toward border security, according to Abbott’s office.
Abbott also signed another letter Wednesday directing the Texas Facilities Commission to hire a project manager to oversee construction. This program manager will be in charge of hiring contractors and subcontractors as needed, according to Abbott’s office.
Contractors and the program manager will also work together to pinpoint the state land needed and land that private owners and local governments can offer up for the wall.
Last week, Abbott hinted during a self-styled border summit in Del Rio that he would create a border barrier to stem the flow of immigrants and illegal drugs into the state, but he did not give details on where the barrier would be built or how it would be funded.
On Tuesday morning, Abbott told “Ruthless,” a podcast about Republican politics, that the state would solicit donations from across the country to help pay for the wall. He said he would have a link prepared when he made the announcement, and all the money donated would be tracked and accounted for.
Abbott, a two-term Republican governor, has blamed the Biden administration in Washington for a recent surge of immigrants on Texas’ southern border, saying in an earlier disaster declaration that new federal policies have paved the way for “dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities.”
Abbott has deployed National Guard troops to the border and ordered the Texas Department of Public Safety to arrest immigrants and charge them for state laws such as trespassing, illegal entry, smuggling and human trafficking.
Immigrant rights advocates have said arresting and prosecuting immigrant parents who cross the border with their children seeking asylum could lead to the same separation of families seen under the Trump administration. Advocates have also expressed concern that the move essentially criminalizes seeking asylum.
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