With the Biden administration effectively MIA at the southern border, Texas is moving forward with construction of more than 700 miles of barriers as part of a $2.9 billion security program.
“Texas taxpayers should not have to pick up the tab for what the administration should be doing, but we have no choice,” said Republican Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, noting that the state has spent $5.3 billion on border operations since 2016.
The unprecedented outlays come with bipartisan support. Voting for security package, Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownsville, says the state must do “everything within our power” to assist beleaguered border communities experiencing daily intrusions by illegal aliens.
Roughly half of the latest $1.8 billion appropriation will go toward wall construction. Currently, just 150 miles of the 1,250-mile Texas-Mexico border have any substantial barrier. The state has identified 733 miles of borderlands where building can proceed without precipitating private-property disputes.
Meanwhile, Texas is deploying more law enforcement officers to the border region and increasing prosecutions of migrants arrested on state charges ranging from criminal trespassing to theft to smuggling.
Some border localities are stepping up, too. Rural Kinney County this week authorized officers to stop and inspect vehicles suspected of carrying illegal aliens. Any illegal migrant without a negative COVID-19 test form will be removed from the county. (A U.S. district judge in El Paso last month blocked Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s statewide order that attempted to halt the transport of illegal aliens by non-governmental organizations.)
Results from Texas’ increased enforcement efforts have been spotty so far. A 2,000-bed state detention facility was cleared six weeks ago to make room for illegal aliens convicted of local and state offenses. But as of Tuesday, 1,200 beds remained empty, and many of the “confinees” are released within 15 days.
Still, the Lone Star State is at least attempting to maximize its authority within a legal framework that makes immigration enforcement primarily a federal responsibility. Austin’s initiatives appear to resonate with the public, which has contributed $54 million in private donations to the effort.
And there’s an ironic note to all this. Though President Joe Biden issued a 60-day moratorium on wall construction on his first day in office, the federal government has resumed work on barriers in sections of the Rio Grande Valley. U.S. officials call it “levee repair,” but to environmentalist Scott Nicol that’s a distinction without a difference. “These are border walls,” he said.