Texas governor redirects $250 million in taxpayer money to kickstart his state border wall

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Texas state police at the Mexico border
Texas state police at the Mexico border Sergio flores/AFP/Getty Images

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) gave more details Wednesday about the wall he wants the state to build along the Mexico border to slow and entrap immigrants. He did not say where the wall will be built or how much it will cost, but he and other Republican officials tapped state funds for a $250 million "down payment" to hire a project manager who will make those decisions. The wall will cost "far more than $250 million," Abbott conceded. He also pledged to build more jails along the Mexico border to house immigrants he said Texas will arrest.

The Supreme Court ruled 5-3 in 2012 that states can't enforce immigration law, but Abbott told the conservative podcast Ruthless on Tuesday that state police will arrest immigrants for other violations. The wall "sets up a crime," he explained. "Anybody coming across the border who in any way tries to damage that fence, they are guilty of two crimes," vandalism and trespassing, both of which are treated as higher-level offenses under an emergency declaration Abbott issued earlier in June. "We will be putting these people in jail for a long time," he said.

Abbott may also be counting on a more conservative Supreme Court overturning its 2012 precedent, the Houston Chronicle reports.

President Biden, who halted his predecessor's federal wall construction, recently returned more than $2 billion the Trump administration siphoned from the Pentagon for the project. The Homeland Security Department also said it's reviewing border land the Trump administration confiscated through eminent domain over the past year and "will work to return the land to its prior owners," when appropriate.

Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said Wednesday he will grant emergency authorization for Abbott's wall to be built on state land, but most of the Texas borderlands are private property. Abbott said he will crowdsource wall construction funds and ask Texas landowners to volunteer their property. ​"My belief based upon conversations that I've already had is that the combination of state land as well as volunteer land will yield hundreds of miles to build a border wall in Texas," he said.

The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) and the ACLU of Texas have both threatened to sue Texas over its foray into federal asylum and immigration policy. LULAC national president Domingo Garcia called Abbott's wall plan an illegal waste of taxpayer funds, "political grandstanding," and "gutter politics."

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