Abbott faces two major obstacles in quest to finish Trump border wall

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is vowing to finish former President Donald Trump's wall along the state's border with Mexico, but the path forward may be a long one that does little to prevent illegal immigration any time soon.

Abbott's two main challenges are legal obstacles and logistical headaches, according to former government officials and border experts who shared their views with the Washington Examiner.

Amid migration surges over the past decade, Texas has stepped in to bolster security at its border with Mexico. The state has frequently sent in state and local law enforcement, as well as the National Guard, to assist federal agents who are stretched thin. Texas has seen the most illegal crossings since President Joe Biden took office, partly because it is the shortest distance from Guatemala's northern border, with nearly half of all migrants who arrived in May traveled from this region.

Since January, tens of thousands of people encountered at the Texas border have been released into the country, which affects Texan communities more than cities and towns in non-border states. To prevent people from unlawfully entering, Abbott wants to put up a barrier to block people.

However, there is no precedent for a state government to spend its own money to secure the international boundary physically.

Part of the delay with building a wall in Texas under Trump was due to unforeseen difficulties in obtaining privately owned and protected federal land in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo. Any builder, albeit from the state or federal government, must own or have the right to build on the land. The U.S. government is more likely to own land on the international border, so Abbott would have to purchase it from Washington, D.C., according to Josh Jones, the Texas Public Policy Foundation's senior fellow in border security.

BIDEN REDIRECTING BILLIONS IN BORDER WALL FUNDING TO ENVIRONMENTAL AND SAFETY CONCERNS

In its quest to control the private land, Texas could use the process known as eminent domain, which occurs when a government compensates a landowner in exchange for private land. The U.S. tried that approach under Trump, and it is still in the midst of legal battles with Texas landowners who refuse to sign away their land.

"There's a reason why there's been a delay in kind of announcing what exactly this will look like," said Mike Howell, senior adviser for government relations at the conservative Heritage Foundation and former lawyer at the Department of Homeland Security's Office of the General Counsel. "That's because it's going to be a difficult, difficult thing to do."

Jones suggested Texas may have a leg up over the U.S. government.

"It is possible, although certainly not a guarantee, that the state may be able to offer a higher price than the federal government for privately owned land, or that Texas landowners would be more inclined to agree to move forward (without appeal) with the Texas state government eminent domain claim than that of the federal government," Jones wrote in an email.

Stewart Verdery, former assistant secretary for border and transportation security for the Department of Homeland Security during the George W. Bush administration, said it needs to be decided "whether this project makes sense."

The Trump administration completed 450 miles of wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border in its four years. However, most of the 450 miles were completed in the three other border states: California, Arizona, and New Mexico. Roughly 300 miles of the additional wall were funded but not completed by the time Trump left office in January. The Biden administration decided last week that the projects, mainly in Texas, would not be completed.

"Before the wall became politicized, career officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection came up with a detailed plan for which sections of the border would be best secured by a wall," Verdery, CEO of consulting firm Monument Advocacy, LLC., wrote in an email. "If the state construction process is not based on that type of analysis, then building a hodgepodge of fences is only going to divert migrant traffic to other areas."

"My guess is that if Texas has the willingness to go through multiple years of litigation, it will be able to build a smattering of wall sections," Verdery said.

The other question is how to fund this enormous project. Recent border wall projects have averaged $20 million per mile. That cost includes lighting, technology in and above the ground, and paved roads. Texas was given a significant chunk of the 2020 CARES Act and could solicit donations from other state governors concerned about illegal immigration.

Even if the state could erect the wall and fill empty spots in a matter of months or a year, it would not necessarily stop the flow of primarily Central American and Mexican citizens. Rather, it would funnel them to other states that are easier to enter, Howell said.

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"The bigger, most present constitutional question is not what will Texas do? The question is, what about what the Biden administration is doing is defending the Constitution?" Howell said. "The problem is that people are illegally entering. They're not being removed. So, the question is, what is Texas going to do to stop that?"

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Tags: News, Texas, Border Crisis, Greg Abbott, Border Security, National Security, States Rights, Biden Administration, Mexico

Original Author: Anna Giaritelli

Original Location: Abbott faces two major obstacles in quest to finish Trump border wall

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