Gov. Greg Abbott says Texas will pony up $250 million 'down payment' for a border wall

click to enlarge Gov. Greg Abbott amps up the rhetoric during Wednesday's news conference about a Texas border wall. - Screen Capture / KXAN-TV
Screen Capture / KXAN-TV
Gov. Greg Abbott amps up the rhetoric during Wednesday's news conference about a Texas border wall.
During an event steeped in rhetoric comparing the current rise in border crossings to an invasion, Gov. Greg Abbott said he'll commit $250 million in state money as a "down payment" for Texas to build its own border wall.

At a Wednesday press conference, Abbott offered no timetable or budget for the project but said the state would soon hire a manager to oversee it. The wall — a centerpiece of former President Donald Trump's campaign promises — would be built on state land and property "volunteered" by private owners, the Republican governor added.

"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," said Abbott, who last week teased plans for a state-backed border wall.

Since President Joe Biden took office, Abbott has seized on a surge in border crossings to score political points, citing it as evidence that Democrats in Washington abhor law and order. He's repeatedly made claims that the spike opens the state to cartels, human smugglers and drugs.

Such talk may be politically beneficial for Abbott as he looks to win favor with Trump voters as he runs for reelection in 2022. However, when it comes to addressing the complex issues affecting the U.S.-Mexico border, he's shown more appetite for bombast than problem solving, political observers say.

"Talking about it may be easy and beneficial to the governor's political purposes, but the idea that a wall is going to be built on the Mexican border is fantasy," Southern Methodist University political science professor Cal Jillson said. 

What's more, experts have questioned Abbott's legal authority to regulate immigration, something overseen by the feds. The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) last week threatened a lawsuit to halt a state-funded border wall.

Even so, many in Abbott's base have a deep appetite for tough talk about the border, even if it's not backed up with meaningful solutions, Jillson added.

"Texas politics is 80% performative and 20% substantive," he said.

During the presser, Abbott warned of "carnage" on the border. Without citing statistics or examples, he cited "homes being invaded" and "people being threatened with guns daily."

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who also spoke at the event, invoked rhetoric popular in white supremacist circles that likened undocumented border crossings to an "invasion" that threatens the future of the country. 

"This is a fight for our survival," Patrick said.

Wednesday's announcement drew immediate condemnation from LULAC, which accused the governor of playing to racial animosities and victimizing immigrants.

"While taxpaying Texans are suffering from rolling blackouts due to the lack of infrastructure on our electrical grid, this man wants to focus on a border wall where he clearly has no jurisdiction," LULAC Texas State Director Rodolfo Rosales Jr. said in an emailed statement.

"We love Texas as much as any other American and we won’t stand quietly by and allow our state’s diverse history and cultural heritage to be squandered because it’s politically expedient for Governor Abbott’s ambitions," he added.

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Sanford Nowlin

Sanford Nowlin is editor-in-chief of the San Antonio Current.

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