Abbott launches Texas border wall project with $250 million 'down payment'

Texas' governor accused the Biden administration of abandoning its border responsibilities

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday formally announced that Texas will build its own border wall, as he accused the Biden administration of abandoning its responsibility to protect the southern U.S. border.

"Today we are announcing that Texas will build a border wall in our state to help secure our border," Abbott said at a press conference.

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Abbott also announced a $250 million down payment to begin the project, allowing the state to hire a project manager and get the task underway. He said that it would be built on a combination of state land and donations of private land, and be partly funded by donations.

"My belief, based upon conversations that I've already had, is a combination of state land as well as volunteer land will yield hundreds of miles to build a wall in the state of Texas," he said.

The Dallas Morning News later reported that the down payment will come from the state's Department of Criminal Justice.

More than 450 miles of border wall, including in Texas, was built during the Trump administration. That construction was suddenly halted by the Biden administration shortly after President Biden took office. Opponents of wall construction said it was cruel and ineffective, while proponents said it was a vital part of a border strategy to stop the flow of illegal immigration.

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Critics of the Biden administration, including Abbott, have accused the federal government of encouraging the recent surge in illegal migration to the border with "open border" policies like stopping wall construction and rolling back Trump-era policies like the Migrant Protection Protocols.

"Make no mistake, the border crisis that we’re dealing with right now is a direct result of the open border policies that have been put in place by the Biden administration," he said.

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Abbott said that border states like Texas have seen "carnage" from people coming over. He said that in the first four months of the year, the Texas Department of Public Safety saw an 800% increase in the amount of fentanyl apprehended at the border – enough to kill more than 21 million Americans.

"Homes are being invaded, neighborhoods are dangerous and people are being threatened on a daily basis with guns by people coming across the border or those working with those coming across the border," he said.

The announcement comes as the surge in migration continues, with more than 180,000 migrants encountered in May alone, and with summer months still ahead. The Biden administration has blamed the spike on "root causes" like violence, poverty and climate change in Central America while downplaying the role the relaxing of restrictions and enforcement has had on the surge.

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Vice President Kamala Harris, who has been criticized for not visiting the border, told migrants in Guatemala last week "do not come" after the Guatemalan president said that the administration's messaging was partly responsible for the crisis.

On Wednesday, Abbott said that the Biden administration "has abandoned its responsibility to apply federal law to secure the border and enforce the immigration laws."

"In the federal government’s absence, Texas is stepping up to get the job done."