State of Texas: Bankrolling the border wall as arrests of migrants rise

Texas Politics

AUSTIN (Nexstar) – This week Governor Greg Abbott announced new details for how Texas will pay to build walls along the border. At a press conference on Thursday, Abbott announced the creation of a state-managed donation site so that citizens can help bankroll the border wall. According to the Governor, “many Texans and many Americans” have already sent in donations, and many more want to do so.

“Texas taxpayers are having to step up so that we, as a state, can protect our citizens,” the Governor claimed.

Another step towards funding the border wall involves the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. On Thursday, the TDCJ confirmed that $250 million was being transferred from their budget to the Disaster Fund within the Office of the Governor in order to help fund border security. The money will come from the TDCJ’s 2023 fiscal budget, and state leaders assured the department that the reappropriation of funds will not negatively impact them because the reallocation of money will be temporary.

Abbott also demanded that the federal government give back any land it took to build the border wall during the Trump administration.

“The Biden administration has abandoned its responsibility to apply federal law to secure the border and to enforce the immigration laws, and Texans are suffering. As a consequence of that neglect by the Biden administration, in the federal government’s absence, Texas is stepping up to get the job done.”

Once the land is returned, Abbott said that the Texas government would speak to the landowners about using their land for the border wall.

The final announcement which Abbott made in his press conference involved jail space. According to Abbott, DPS has arrested over 1,500 people crossing the border illegally since March of this year. Due to this high volume of arrests, space in jails is becoming scarce.

To make room for migrants with low-level offenses, the TDCJ has begun moving inmates from the Dolph Briscoe Unit in Dilley, Texas, to other facilities with available capacity throughout the state.

Sandra Sanchez, a reporter for BorderReport.com, traveled to McAllen, Texas to get a firsthand look at the conditions facing migrants and border enforcement officers are facing.

Sanchez accompanied border patrol agents as they looked for clues that could lead them to migrants trying to hide. She witnessed Border patrol agents apprehend several adult migrants who were trying to elude capture by hiding in tall carrizo cane.

The Army Corps of Engineers came up with a plan for the wall, which will be constructed from 30-foot metal bollards with a five-foot anti-climb plate at the top. When questioned whether Texas citizens who live closely to the border believe that the border wall will be effective, Sanchez replied that most communities do not think the wall is necessary.

“[The wall] does not stop migrants from crossing as I witnessed yesterday, and as we’re hearing stories of ranchers and farmers further north, where many migrants are being found,” said Sanchez.

These communities also have doubts about the budget which Abbott has proposed for building the wall. For the parts of the wall which the Trump administration has already built, the average cost per mile was $26 million, with the price going up to $41 million per mile in parts of Arizona and canyon areas. With Abbott’s budget of just $1.1 billion, “people down here don’t believe” it is possible to build the wall explained Sanchez.

Also, some south Texans are frustrated about the impact of the wall on their way of life.

“They feel that it’s a militarized zone, they feel that they have lost access to the river, to the other part of that wall, the other side of that land, which has always been part of Texas, and they do not want the entire state to be walled off,” said Sanchez.

Governor downplays electric grid concerns as Texans are told to conserve power

Gov. Greg Abbott on Wednesday downplayed concerns about the reliability of the Texas electric grid after millions of Texans were told to conserve energy because of unexpected outages and demand.

“Everyone who has been trying to make a big deal about the power grid over the past two days, I have found were the same people who called me a Neanderthal when I opened Texas 100%,” Abbott said during a press conference on his plan to build a wall along Texas’ southern border with Mexico. “They were hoping that there would be a power failure.”

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While the request from ERCOT that Texans reduce their energy consumption during peak times — 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. — through Friday caused many to see flashbacks of February’s extreme winter storm, Abbott said the announcement was the first example that communication has improved since then.

He added that reforms made by the state legislature to the electric grid – like requiring electricity providers to prepare for extreme weather – will take time to implement.

“I can tell you for a fact, as we’re sitting here today, the energy grid in Texas is better today than it’s ever been,” Abbott said.

Have Texas lawmakers done enough to address ERCOT issues? Energy experts weigh in 

ERCOT briefed members of the Texas House Wednesday morning about the issues facing the grid this week. The unexpected failure of thermal generation plants, less wind power generation than projected, and higher demand for power led to the call for conservation, according to state Rep. Donna Howard, an Austin Democrat, who was on the call.

Howard said the state legislature took important steps to improving the electric grid in the legislative session that concluded last month but said lawmakers have yet to address fluctuating market prices and the need to weatherize natural gas providers.

Less than a week before ERCOT would issue its conservation warning, Abbott announced that “everything that needed to be done was done to fix the power grid in Texas.”

“We have much more to do and just about anybody else who’s been involved with this will say that,” Howard said.

Austin Mayor Adler: Gov. Abbott ‘doesn’t seem to care’ about ‘unreliable’ ERCOT power grid 

Terry Hillis, a retired Leander man, typically stays out of politics – he’s locked in on ERCOT developments.

“For anyone to stand up and say, ‘well, we really don’t have a problem,’ it’s crazy! Of course we have a problem,” he said.

Juneteenth holiday becomes law while Texas faces debate over teaching issues of race

This week President Biden signed legislation making Juneteenth a federal holiday. The day will celebrate June 19, 1865, the day Union soldiers arrived in Galveston, Texas bringing news of the Emancipation Proclamation, and enslaved black people in Texas learned of their freedom.

Both Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee, who led the legislation in the House, and Republican John Cornyn, who carried it in the Senate, were extremely proud.

Cornyn espoused that “There’s nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come… This is the most propitious time for us to recognize our history and to learn from it.”

Lee claimed that “What I see here today is racial divide crumbling under a momentous vote.”

While the creation of Juneteenth as a federal holiday was widely celebrated, Texas moved toward a divisive debate over how and what Texas schools should teach about matters of race and racism.

Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill to ban the teaching of Critical Race Theory in schools this week. Critical Race Theory is the concept that racism is systemic and upheld by inequality in the legal system. He said that lawmakers should

House Bill 3979 does more than just ban Critical Race Theory, it prevents educators from teaching that anyone is inherently racist or speaking about current events, and requires students to read certain books about America’s founding, such as a book by Alexis de Tocqueville which justifies slavery. Abbott also believes that more needs to be done on the topic and plans to revisit the issue during the special session later this year.

Two Texas representatives shared their thoughts on the issue. Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, a Republican from Southlake, near Dallas, supports the legislation. Rep. Mary González, a Democrat from Clint, near El Paso, opposes the bill.

Rep. Capriglione believes that the rhetoric around HB 3979, and its effect on education, is being blown out of proportion.

Capriglione also claimed that HB 3979 will help remove bias from the classroom.

“At the end of the day, where we all must agree, and I think do agree, is that we should be able to teach history — the good, the bad and ugly — but also in the fairest, most honest, unbiased way possible. And you know, for me, that is what this bill does,” explained Capriglione.

González claims that HB 3979 is the result of a strategic political effort, not sound educational policy.

“The reality is our school local schools aren’t teaching CRT. CRT is a graduate level academic theory,” González, who has a PhD in education, said.

“This is being used to talk about other things that people feel anxious about,” she added. “It’s just really trying to say we only want to teach one way, and that’s the only. It’s really handcuffing our teachers,” said González in her interview.

González is also worried about the impact the bill will have on the relationship between students and teachers.

“What happens if one of your students has a has experienced racism? And they come to you to talk about it? How will the teacher feel if they feel that they can’t talk to the student? And how will that relationship between the student and teacher really be impacted?”

Capriglione said he believes the legislation will improve communication in the classroom when it comes to controversial topics.

“You can’t have those conversations if some of the students, for instance, don’t feel that it’s appropriate for them to be involved in this conversation,” Capriglione said. “I think this actually ends up opening it up for even more dialogue, and more conversation about those issues.”

Texas Democrats push for voting rights bill in DC

A group of 16 Texas Democratic lawmakers met Wednesday morning with Vice President Kamala Harris to talk about the ongoing fight over voting.

Harris’s office announced last week that she would sit down at the White House with the state legislators whose walkout helped sink a GOP-led elections bill at the end of this legislative session.

The conversation focused on existing voting measures in Texas as well as the path forward. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott already stated some version of Senate Bill 7, which the Democrats defeated with their procedural move, would be taken up soon during a special session.

The state lawmakers worked to rally support to pass federal legislation that could override some of the rules Texas Republicans plan to pass.

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“We will do everything in our power as an administration to lift up the voices of those who seek to preserve the right of the people to vote,” Harris said. “We’re not telling people how to vote, and frankly this is not a Democratic or a Republican issue. This is an American issue.”

She also said she would discuss with the Texas lawmakers about a commitment to keep urging Congress to approve federal voting legislation, namely the For The People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act.

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Harris specifically brought up SB 7, saying it “clearly has been written in a way to make it difficult for people” to vote. However, Texas Republicans argued the legislation was needed to further secure the election processes in the state.

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