Texas Border Wall

After former President Trump left office, Texas Governor Greg Abbott vowed to continue a Trump Administration policy of building a wall along his state’s border with Mexico. The move sparked intense controversy and has faced both political and legal challenges.

Updated:
Jun 23, 2022
| Published:
Jun 23, 2022
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After President Biden halted the construction of President Trump’s border wall, Texas Governor Greg Abbott vowed to build his own border wall in Texas. After approving $1.05 billion in the spring, the Texas House recently allocated an additional $1.88 billion in funding for southern border security. Advocates say the state-funded wall will decrease the number of immigrants trying to pass through their border with Mexico. Opponents say the wall is expensive, ineffective, and fails to address the root causes of illegal immigration.

History

Secure Communities Program (S-COMM) (2008)

S-COMM allowed ICE to place a “detainer” on suspected undocumented immigrants. A “detainer” is a request from ICE to a jail to hold a person for up to 48 hours beyond the scheduled release date so that ICE can take them into custody and initiate deportation proceedings. The Bush administration launched the pilot S-COMM program in 2008, with 14 jurisdictions participating. In 2011, the Obama administration had expanded the program to 1,210 jurisdictions. ICE divided noncitizen prisoners into three categories:

  • Level 1: Those convicted of serious crimes, such as homicide, kidnapping, robbery, major drug offenses with sentences longer than one year, and offenses involving threats to national security.
  • Level 2: All other felonies.
  • Level 3: Misdemeanors and lesser crimes.

Priority Enforcement Program (PEP) (2014)

Following a record number of ICE arrests during his first term (1.18 million in three years), President Obama enacted the Priority Enforcement Program to focus ICE efforts on individuals convicted of significant criminal offenses or who otherwise pose a threat to public safety. In fiscal year (FY) 2016, the program’s first year, PEP significantly changed the criminal makeup of unauthorized immigrants removed by ICE. Of the immigrants deported that year, 92% were convicted of a crime. ICE agents’ strict adherence to the priorities and prosecutorial discretion significantly reduced overall deportations, from 315,943 in FY2014 to 240,255 in FY2016.

Texas Border Wall

The Texas-Mexico border stretches over 1,200 miles. Under the guidance of Governor Abbott, Texas plans to build a wall along 733 miles of that border. The Texas House of Representatives recently passed HB 9, which approved an additional $1.88 billion for construction on top of the $1.05 billion approved in the spring of 2021. Also, Texas has raised $54 million in private funding to fund other border projects.

Advocates say these projects will reduce the number of immigrants coming into Texas and the U.S. more broadly, especially those who have tried to cross the border before. Approximately 27% of migrants who made it to the border this summer had previously attempted to enter the United States illegally. The law also provides funds for Texas to station an additional 1,800 Texas National Guard soldiers at the border, bringing the total to 2,500.

To some, these are necessary public safety measures. Others see them as part of the current Governor’s strategy to maximize voter turnout ahead of the 2022 gubernatorial election. A poll by the University of Texas at Austin found that Abbott’s 41% approval rating was an all-time low, with 50% of Texans disapproving of his actions in August 2021.

According to the U.S. Constitution, border security is primarily a federal responsibility. States must collaborate with the federal government to make changes to border security. This may present itself as a legal obstacle to Governor Abbott’s plan. Some Texas landowners have already filed lawsuits against the federal government, under President Trump, for attempts at building the border. However, the state is allowed to build a wall on private land. Approximately 120 landowners have agreed to allow a temporary fence along their properties while the state constructs the actual border wall. 

Discussion Questions

  1. Why do you believe the Left sees this wall as a political stunt?
  2. Why is emphasizing that 27% of migrants are repeat crossers significant to the argument for the wall?
  3. Given immigration is a federal issue, how likely do you believe it is that the wall will get built?

History

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Narratives

Left Narrative

Immigration reform is the responsibility of the federal government, not individual states. Texas has no legal authority to build this wall in another attempt to keep migrants from coming to the border. Despite the Governor’s constant claims of the high rate of undocumented immigration, illegal immigration numbers have gone down over the years. This wall is just a personal, political attempt for Governor Abbott to continue Trump administration policies and gain support from right-wing Texans before his attempt at reelection in 2022.

Right Narrative

If the federal government refuses to take responsibility for securing the borders of this country, then the burden of security falls on the states. Ideally, the federal government would work with states to construct a border wall, but in this instance, Texas is taking a positive step towards solving the U.S. border crisis.

Bipartisan Narrative

If the federal government refuses to take responsibility for securing the borders of this country, then the burden of security falls on the states. Ideally, the federal government would work with states to construct a border wall, but in this instance, Texas is taking a positive step towards solving the U.S. border crisis.

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