As illegal border crossings continue to fuel sex trafficking and other crimes in Texas, citizens have watched the nearly year-long journey of Gov. Greg Abbott moving towards building a border wall.
The Biden–Harris administration stopped construction of former President Trump’s border wall in January 2021. This was quickly followed by a spike in illegal border crossings into the United States, particularly by minors. The administration took further actions that actively encouraged more illegal border crossings, which human traffickers said in March caused their business to boom.
Texas was hit hard. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton reported more than 170,000 illegally crossed the state’s southern border in March 2021. Contrary to leftist narratives, these are not all migrant workers, but also include cartel members and sex traffickers. In fact, Pastor Heather Schott of The Justice Reform, an anti-sex trafficking nonprofit, told Texas Scorecard activity at the border had turned Texas into “a funnel … into the rest of the nation for trafficking.”
Texans’ outrage reached Austin, forcing Abbott to start working on a border wall. But, at times, there were questions of whether he would follow through.
Building The Wall
Despite Abbott announcing his public pivot to border security in March with Operation Lone Star, action did not appear to be swift.
In May, Mayor Don McLaughlin of Uvalde, a Texas border city, said Abbott had not returned his calls for help and a bill to finish the wall was killed in a Texas Legislature committee during the 2021 regular session. During his interview with McLaughlin, Tucker Carlson of Fox News said, “Gov. Abbott strikes me as a total fraud.”
That same month, it was reported the situation at Texas’ open border had “gotten worse.”
In June, Abbott announced plans to build a border wall and to significantly increase arrests of illegal border crossers. He said the increased ability to arrest would be enhanced by building border barriers, and some “border barriers will be built immediately.” In July, citizens visiting parts of the border alleged Abbott’s “border wall” was actually a chain-link fence.
In November, Abbott publicly boasted that Texas was building “strategic fencing” with “razor wire,” but he did not indicate whether the materials could resist wire cutters. None of the images he shared showed construction of an actual wall, though he claimed “progress is being made.”
Meanwhile, materials meant for Texas’ portion of Trump’s unfinished wall were collecting dust. In response to a question at a December press conference, Abbott said Texas had been asking the Biden Administration for the unused materials meant for Trump’s wall, but had gotten no response.
Land Commissioner Candidate and Retired U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Victor Avila told Texas Scorecard in July that for a wall to be effective, it should be built right at the border, where natural barriers don’t exist. He noted even Trump’s border wall isn’t exactly at the border itself, but inland, because private citizens (such as ranchers) own a significant portion of border property. Avila found a number of these ranchers want a border wall built on their property, something he believes Abbott should pursue. In December, Abbott said the state would be working “with private property owners” to build parts of the wall on their land.
Finally, on December 18, Abbott showed Texans the beginnings of a border wall in Rio Grande City, saying this wall is a “replication” of Trump’s wall. “Same material, same concept.” Abbott also mentioned other actions were being taken to address illegal border crossings, such as using boat barriers in border waters.
Abbott reported more than 1.2 million illegal border crossers had been apprehended in 2021, and pointed out that figure doesn’t include those who haven’t been caught. He did not offer a timeline of when citizens can expect illegal border crossings to be brought down to zero, or a timetable with goals of expected decreases in such crossings.
It was recently reported a contract was awarded in November to build 8 miles of border wall in Texas. The Texas-Mexico border is 1,254 miles long. Abbott’s challengers in the Republican primary have offered their own border security plans.