Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said that his state would pick up where the Trump administration left off on its proposed border wall between the U.S. and Mexico ― at least in his state.
“While securing the border is the federal government’s responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows,” Abbott said at an event in Del Rio on Thursday.
The governor elicited big cheers and applause from the crowd when he announced his commitment to sending migrants who cross the border between checkpoints to jail. Abbott said he would also step up the number of law enforcement agents sent to assist U.S. Customs and Border Patrol officials, creating new barriers “immediately.”
Although Trump had planned to construct hundreds of miles of new wall ― at a price tag of more than $11 billion, or $20 million per mile ― most of the construction completed during his term replaced existing wall segments that had been erected during previous administrations. Trump built only about 80 miles of new wall, which includes 50 miles of primary wall and 30 miles of secondary wall, during his term.
Texas shares 1,254 miles of border with Mexico.
“This is an unprecedented crisis, and Texas is responding with the most robust and comprehensive border plan the nation has ever seen,” Abbott said, adding that more details will be provided next week.
The ACLU of Texas decried Abbott’s announcement as a distraction from his “governing failures while targeting vulnerable migrants.”
The uptick in people ― particularly unaccompanied children ― arriving at the southern border has been a focus of GOP attacks on Biden, who enacted a policy against deporting children. During his campaign, Biden pledged to end for-profit immigration detention and to make America a more welcoming place for people seeking safe harbor from violence and instability in their home countries.
The actions Biden has taken on immigration have attracted criticism from progressive groups, however, as not going far enough to help people in need. Many of the people who make the dangerous trek to the U.S. border come from Guatemala, El Salvador and Nicaragua ― a region where critics say U.S. foreign policy has contributed to instability.
Biden lifted the cap on annual refugees accepted into the country from 15,000 to 62,500 in May. The administration had sparked backlash the month prior for indicating it would keep the record-low asylum cap set by Trump for the rest of the fiscal year, which ends in September. For the following fiscal year, Biden plans to set the number of refugee admissions at 125,000. That’s far less than the number of migrants taken into U.S. Customs and Border Protection custody in only the month of April, which was nearly 180,000.
During her visit to Guatemala this week, Vice President Kamala Harris had a simple message for would-be immigrants: “Do not come.”