Citizens have discovered the border wall promised by Gov. Greg Abbott is, in reality, a chain-link fence. With a shocking increase of illegal immigrants with a record of sex crimes being caught crossing the border, Texans are being called to pressure officials to provide the security they demand.

On June 16, Abbott announced Texas was building a border wall, redirecting $250 million in state tax dollars for a down payment. Roughly a month later, retired U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Victor Avila and citizen Al Zito informed Texas Scorecard the “wall” was just a chain-link fence.

“The many rolls of chain-link fence that we saw getting ready to be put up down by the border in Val Verde County/Del Rio was ridiculous,” Zito told Texas Scorecard.

“The fence won’t deter any illegals from entering,” Avila stated.

“We could not believe that our state administration/Abbott is thinking that a chain-link fence is going to replace a wall-type fence that was originally planned and was being built by [former President Donald] Trump,” Zito continued.

Avila explained the fence itself would be about 100 yards from the river, and illegal immigrants won’t reach it until after they’ve already crossed the border and gone through someone’s private property, typically a ranch. “The illegals have already trespassed into the U.S. by entering mostly private property on the Texas side,” he said. The fence will just funnel these immigrants to another place, where law enforcement will have to try to apprehend them, a concept Avila wasn’t impressed by.

“For me, it’s all a show by Abbott saying, ‘Well, I’m building a wall.’ It’s a fence,” he said. Avila believes the fence may slow illegal immigrants down, but there might be other issues, like more of them suffering from dehydration while trying to figure out where to go. Avila said U.S. Border Patrol has dealt with similar issues before by using cardboard signs to guide these illegal immigrants and prevent their death and starvation.

Zito was also unimpressed. “These people cut through fences like this like it’s butter,” he said. “While any fence is going to be a deterrent, a chain-link fence is basically useless and a waste of taxpayer money.”

Materials already exist to build an actual wall. In McAllen, Avila found abandoned portions of Trump’s incomplete border wall lying around, which he believes Texas could use. “There is material that they could immediately go grab … and start putting up barriers,” he said.

Criminal activity and public safety are big concerns being generated by the open border. Since March, Avila has been touring Texas’ border areas of McAllen, Del Rio, and El Paso. He’s found the situation has worsened since Abbott’s public pivot to border security earlier this year, adding there’s “a huge increase of single, adult males being smuggled.”

Avila reported data he received from Val Verde County’s sheriff shows that, of the illegal immigrants caught crossing the border, there’s been a 1,466 percent increase in sex offenders. “These are individuals that have been detected, and they’ve been convicted of child rape, child pornography, anything related to a sex crime,” Avila said. “Now, these are the ones that are detected. The ‘undetecteds’ are the numbers that we don’t know.” He added that the illegal immigrants crossing the American border are from 83 nations, not just Mexico or Central America.

“I find it disingenuous of Governor Abbott to represent that this chain-link fence will help the citizens of Texas and especially those that are on our 1,254-mile border,” Zito said.

Texas Scorecard asked State Rep. Bryan Slaton (R–Royse City), who held a forum on border security last week, about the chain-link fence situation. “I’ve heard it was going to be barbed wire in places,” he replied. “Border counties are overwhelmed, in their budgets, jails, and manpower. We should be building a wall. We should have all of our national guard helping secure our border, just like they have done in other countries. And we should stop all commerce with Mexico until the Mexican government decides to help stop the human trafficking, drug trafficking, and other cartel activities.”

As for how best to build an actual wall, Avila believes it should be built right at the border, where natural barriers don’t exist. He noted that 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. But Avila has found that a number of these ranchers want a border wall built on their property, something he believes Abbott should pursue. “That would work because now the people can’t come up,” Avila explained. “Now you’re sending the message, ‘You’re not coming in.’ Right now, it’s wide open.”

For now, he calls on Texans to contact all of their local, state, and federal elected officials, including their city councilman, county commissioner, and state representatives. “I want our citizens to continue to put the pressure on all elected officials.”

Robert Montoya

Born in Houston, Robert Montoya is an investigative reporter for Texas Scorecard. He believes transparency is the obligation of government.