Texas will construct a large portion of a wall along the United States-Mexico border in 2023, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on December 13.
The construction project will include installing a new length of the slatted wall along an unspecified portion of the border and will continue throughout 2023, according to Abbott.
“More border wall is going up next month. It took months to negotiate with private property owners on the border for the right to build on their property,” Abbott wrote on Twitter. “We now should be building more border wall all of next year.”
During the presidency of Donald Trump, crews completed 450 miles of wall along the 2,000-mile U.S.-Mexico border. However, most of those 450 miles were constructed in the three other border states: California, Arizona, and New Mexico.
Just 145 miles of the 1,241-mile Texas-Mexico border has any substantive fence or wall, according to federal planning documents from Trump-era wall projects and information provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Roughly 300 more miles of the wall were funded by Congress but not completed by the time Trump left office.
After President Joe Biden took over the White House in January 2021, his administration immediately canceled billions of dollars worth of planned border wall projects, including those already funded by Congress during the Trump administration.
By March 2021, the number of unlawful migrants apprehended at the southern border had spiked and continued to increase through the spring. In the past two years, Texas has seen more than two million unlawful migrant encounters along its border.
The spike in unlawful migrant apprehension prompted Abbott to announce in June 2021 that he would finish the wall. Texas subsequently broke ground on a 2-mile-long portion of the barrier in Rio Grande City in December 2021 and completed it this year.
Abbott’s two main challenges in completing the remaining 1,100 miles of the border wall have been cost and legal obstacles. At a reported average cost of $20 million per mile, completing the barrier is a tall task for the state.
The delay was also due in part to problems obtaining privately owned and federally protected land in the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo.
Earlier this year, Texas agreed to three contracts with a private contractor, totaling $600 million for 27 miles of wall. The state has $4 billion on hand for border security operations and has also opened the border wall project to public donations, raising $55 million to date.
Abbott’s renewed urgency for completing Texas’ border wall might have something to do with another recent surge in unlawful border crossings near El Paso.
The impending end of Title 42, a COVID-era policy that allows for the immediate expulsion of unlawful migrants, may also be pushing the governor to act quickly.
“El Paso official says illegal border crossing numbers ‘are unsustainable’ days before Title 42 expires,” Abbott wrote on Twitter. “It’s the direct result of 2 years of inaction from the Biden Admin. While Biden drags his feet, Texas will do whatever it takes to protect our state.”
In another tweet related to unlawful migration Wednesday, Abbott wrote: “I’m calling on the Texas Attorney General’s Office to investigate the role non-governmental organizations may have played in planning & assisting illegal crossings into Texas. With the end of Title 42 days away, Texas remains vigilant in our response to Biden’s border crisis.”