A vague plan to revive Trump's disastrous wall construction project
In a press conference held in Del Rio, Texas on Thursday June 10th, Governor Greg Abbott announced his plans to build a wall along the border between Mexico and Texas - reviving the ill-fated wall construction project that became one of the big disappointments of the Trump Presidency.
And just like Trump's proclamations regarding his wall, Abbott made plenty of promises that were suitably vague and non-committal, while also being filled with the same hysteria about the dangers presented by an unprotected border and the human beings beyond it.
Governor Abbott was quick to talk about the vast sums of money that would be pledged to the project ($1.1 billion out of the funds recently earmarked in the state budget for border security. As for the specifics of the project, such as when it will start and whether the project is justifiable or indeed, legal?
Such details were lacking from the briefing.
Legal conflict with the Biden Administration
The announcement of Abbott's wall project will be unlikely to proceed without further scrutiny and challenge from the Biden administration. It would likely exacerbate the legal wrangling that's ongoing between the two.
The Biden administration has threatened to sue Abbott after he ordered that state licences be pulled from state child care facilities that housed migrant children. The move was described by U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as a "direct attack" on the effort to rehome federal migrant children. Over 8,500 children are currently housed in 52 such facilities in Texas and could be at risk as a result of Abbott's decision.
It seems that the Governor is motivated to tackle the border issue with unflinching (and some might say, excessive) force. He's chosen to address the situation via a disaster declaration - a status usually reserved for natural disasters or health crises.
Could this be seen as politically motivated hysteria, or a calculated move to win favor amongst senior members of the Republican party?
Trump's failed wall project
Like many legacies of the Trump presidency, the border wall project was a fallacy and a failure from the moment it was announced right up to the end of his presidency.
Trump promised to build "a great wall" and that Mexico would pay for it. In reality the work carried out under Trump mainly replaced barriers that had been installed by previous administrations. Mexico has not paid for any construction and instead Americans have paid out of their taxes.
During his political campaigning through 2016 Trump estimated costs of between $8 billion and $12 billion. According to Time magazine the federal govenment actually allocated $15 billion to the project during his presidency.
The US-Mexico border spans approximately 2,000 miles and prior to Trump, 654 miles of that had some form of wall or barrier. At the conclusion of his presidency, that had increased to just 657 miles.
What next for the Texas wall
There is undoubtedly an issue relating to uncontrolled migration and the effects this can have for Texans. The answer to such problems however doesn't seem to be to villify the Mexican people, or to build walls around the state - the time it takes and the costs alone mean that the initiative proposed by Abbott seems unlikely to address the problem.
Many believe that the wall is a symbol of racism and xenophobia, and was described by Laredo activist Juan Ruiz in clear and unequivocal terms:
“The wall is like a battery power for racial division”
Solutions need to be found to the crisis that aren't solely focused on demonizing 'the others' and putting up barriers. Time will tell if Abbott's project even gets started and if it does, whether it accomplishes much more than Trump's project ever did.