On Wednesday afternoon, the governor provided details on a plan which includes an online fundraising effort to pay for the massive project.
Abbott said he is going to do what the Biden administration has refused to do and what the Trump administration wasn't able to do. Last week in promising to give details about his plan, the governor said he will crackdown on undocumented immigrants crossing the border.
Abbott said state and local authorities will arrest, prosecute and give out jail time. Wednesday, he repeated that promise, saying state trespassing charges would be filed on those caught illegally crossing or smuggling people into Texas.
"The federal government is spending seemingly all of its resources concerning the border on the people who are trying to enter into the state of Texas," said Abbott. "I’m focused on the humanitarian crisis that Texans are suffering through. Texans on the border are suffering through a humanitarian crisis by having their lives disrupted with guns and gangs and being riddled with and being riddled with crime. It’s tech sense that we have a responsibility as leaders in the state to step up and address their humanitarian crisis and that is what began today."
It has been estimated that building a fixed barrier system on the Texas border, could cost between $25 million and $50 million a mile. With a large group of Republican lawmakers standing on risers behind him, Abbott signed several documents Wednesday that authorized reallocating $250 million from funds lawmakers had earmarked to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. The notification letter indicated funding to replace what's transferred will be found by state leaders to minimize the impact on TDCJ.
The money transfer is going to the Texas Facilities Commission. Some of it is expected to help pay for temporary barriers that the governor said are going up now. The bulk of the cash is going toward the hiring of a border barrier construction project manager. The governor said the project manager will determine what will be built and what will be left up to other types of security features. The governor's plan includes using technology like special sensors and aircraft, along with increased patrols where building a fence is not practical.
After a project manager is in place, the governor said a better cost estimate should be available. To help offset costs, Abbott said private donations have already started coming in. An online crowdsourcing site is being launched to collect more donations.
Abbott also confirmed that governors from other states like Florida, Arkansas, and Oklahoma are sending some of their law enforcement personnel to Texas. The help, according to the governor, is part of a new multi-state coalition. The extra personnel is expected to be used to patrol the border and also provide additional support in county jails.
"This document will go down as one of the most important documents in the history of Texas because it's reclaiming our land, our border, our country, our state for the people of Texas and America. We are being invaded," said Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Critics condemned the governor's plan as political theater to help win the upcoming GOP primary. Abbott said those comments come from people who are "clueless" about what’s happening on the border.
Reaction to the reboot of a border wall plan is expected to trigger the same type that happened in 2019. Two years ago former El Paso congressman Beto O'Rourke led a protest when President Trump ramped up efforts to build a wall from California to Texas. O'Rourke is back in the debate because he is considering a campaign for the Democratic Party gubernatorial nomination.
In an interview with FOX 7 Wednesday, O’Rourke said border strategies over the years, from Bush to Biden, have been incoherent at best. "We need to take this seriously and so far as a country have failed to do so, but I'd argue very vigorously, as well would so many of my fellow El Pasoians, that a wall is simply not the answer," he said.
O’Rourke acknowledged the constant push of immigrants crossing the border is an immediate concern, but he doesn’t agree Abbott has the solution.
"If you fail to address the underlying reasons that people flee in the first place, there is not a wall high enough, not a moat you can dig wide enough, or enforcement action draconian enough that will keep people away, it's that bad in those countries," he said.
O’Rourke suggest an effort similar to what the U.S. did to help Europe after World War II. "It's not easy, it's not sexy, there's no mission accomplished banner that we can hang behind ourselves, with one piece of legislation, it requires real work, and I wish and I hope President Biden will make the Americas our number 1 foreign policy priority."
O'Rourke praised Vice President Kamala Harris for going to Central America recently, but admits she should now come down to Texas. He indicated he would extend an invitation and offer the VP a guided tour, but that trip will have to wait.
O’Rourke is wrapping up a statewide tour to oppose Republican efforts to reform election laws here in Texas. A rally in support of a federal election reform bill that is pushed by the Democrat-controlled U.S. Congress is set to take place Sunday afternoon at the state capitol.