Texas will soon begin construction on a border wall, Gov. Greg Abbott said at a border security summit in Del Rio on Thursday.
The summit was composed of sheriffs, police chiefs, county judges, mayors, district attorneys, and landowners throughout Texas’ border region.
As a part of the summit, he gave an address where he made several announcements as to both continued and new efforts to secure the border in the absence of action by the federal government. He was joined by Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) Chief Nim Kidd, Major General Tracy Norris of the Texas Military Department, and Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Director Steve McCraw.
He briefly addressed efforts throughout the summit to discuss immediate solutions with the summit participants, including local government officials, law enforcement, and judicial leadership.
Abbott went on to announce that he was invoking powers under Article IV of the Texas Constitution to form the Governor’s Task Force on Border and Homeland Security. The task force will be composed of his office, the office of the Attorney General, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas Department of Emergency Management, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and the Texas Commission on Jail Standards. He indicated that they would meet every two weeks with border region government officials and law enforcement personnel to come up with every solution to make the border safer.
Abbott said that next week he will issue a new disaster declaration creating an enhanced border security plan with a focus on increasing the difficulty for people to come to Texas illegally—and to make sure those who try face consequences for doing so. He indicated that the focus will be on significantly increasing arrests by having the Texas DPS work with local law enforcement and county and city officials for anyone caught trespassing or conducting vandalism, criminal mischief, or smuggling.
Perhaps most noteworthy, the governor announced that the increased ability to arrest would be enhanced by building border barriers. Abbott said, “Some of these border barriers will be built immediately. I will announce next week the plan for the state of Texas to begin building the border wall in the state of Texas.”
In conjunction with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R), Abbott invoked the long-standing Emergency Management Assistance Compact to call on other states to send reinforcements and help in the form of equipment, such as drones and helicopters, as well as law enforcement officers and jailers.
“States across America, come to Texas. Help us solve this border crisis,” he said.
The governor also addressed the problems of landowners in the border region. He said that the newly created Task Force on Border and Homeland Security would work with landowners seeking reimbursement for those damages in collecting from the federal government.
“It is wrong that they are left to foot the bill for damage caused to their property by those here illegally,” said Abbott. “The federal government should pay for those damages.”
He took a dig at the federal government by concluding his address by saying:
“This is something that is also not a tourism site for members of congress to make an annual pilgrimage to and see the border and go back and do absolutely nothing at the federal government level to solve the crisis. Long term, only Congress and the President can fix our broken border, but in the meantime Texas is going to do everything possible, including beginning to make arrests to keep our communities safe, to keep the cartels and smugglers out. We are going to do everything we can to secure the border.”
During the 87th Legislative Session, which concluded on May 31, there were a few bills filed to do some of the very things Abbott announced in his address. The bills never made it through the legislative process.
State Sen. Bob Hall (R–Edgewood) had a bill that would have authorized the Texas governor to coordinate and develop an interstate compact for joint action on border security and enforce federal regulations. It passed the Texas Senate on a party-line vote but ultimately died in the Texas House of Representatives.
State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City) had a bill that would have created the framework for the funding of border security enhancements, including a wall on the Texas-Mexico border. It would have required that the governor obtain reimbursement from the federal government for all expenses. It never got a public hearing in the Texas House of Representatives.
Border security was also not an emergency legislative priority of Abbott’s during the legislative session, as he announced in early February.
What Does It All Mean?
It is unclear as to what exactly the announced ramp-up efforts will look like on the ground and whether local officials will be true partners in those efforts. It is also unclear as to whether the federal government will follow through with any potential reimbursements of landowners or whether any additional states will join the newly found interstate compact.