Greg Abbott's Texas Border Wall Project Raises Over $459K Toward Barrier's Construction

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has renewed former President Donald Trump's promises to build a wall on the United States-Mexico border, receiving funding for his plan with over $495,000 raised through donations and solicitations, according to his office.

Abbott has been seen as a potential candidate for the 2024 presidential election, and plans to shift $250 million in state dollars toward a new barrier with more financing through crowdsourcing, a donations webpage and post office box for supporters to donate their own money, the Associated Press reported. Abbott's office said crowdsourcing has raised more than $459,000, although it did not say how many donors were involved.

There has been some criticism about Abbott's measures, which he has rejected by saying it's for the good of American citizens and Texas residents.

"Anyone who thinks this is politics doesn't have a clue what's going on at the border," Abbott said in the Texas Capitol last week. "Anyone who thinks this is politics doesn't care about American citizens or Texas residents."

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.

Border Wall
Texas Governor Greg Abbott pledged to renew former President Donald Trump's promises of building a border wall through allocating state funds and crowdsourcing. Above, a family of asylum seekers from Colombia walk through an opening in the wall at the U.S.-Mexico border to turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents on May 13, 2021, in Yuma, Arizona. Apu Gomes/Getty Images

Promises to build a wall. Descriptions of American homes "invaded" by immigrants and a trail of "carnage." Plans to arrest border crossers and haul them to jail.

It's not Trump in 2016. It's Texas Governor Abbott 2021.

The ambitious Republican is first among a group of GOP governors who have picked up where the former president left off when it comes to hardline immigration measures.

In recent weeks, Abbott has rolled out get-tough plans and rhetoric not seen before even in Texas, where Republicans have spent a decade making border security the centerpiece of their agenda.

Abbott's new push has been called political theater, which he has rejected as the number of border crossers remains high. But it has gained Trump's attention. The former president is due to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time since leaving the White House in January. He will appear with Abbott on Wednesday and is expected to be joined in Texas by other GOP lawmakers.

The moves from Abbott and other Republican governors, including some with possible 2024 aspirations, are one sign of how Trump's anti-immigration policies are outliving his presidency.

Republican leaders who want a future in the party continue to see support for aggressive border measures as a political winner, buoyed by 2020 results that suggest that Trump's tact did not drive away drive away Latino voters as some Democrats predicted.

There are signs the Republican pressure is working. After weeks of criticism for not visiting the border, Vice President Kamala Harris is set to go to El Paso on Friday.

"From a Republican audience perspective, it's a rock-solid issue for the governor," said Matt Langston, a Republican strategist in Texas. "It is an issue that is going to pay dividends for Governor Abbott."

Abbott is not alone in that pursuit.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, another potential presidential candidate, last week became the first governor to announce that he would deploy law enforcement from his own state to the nation's 2,000-mile border with Mexico, although he gave scant details that left the extent of that commitment unclear.

Since Democrat Joe Biden took office as president, Abbott has tried position America's biggest Republican-led state as the foremost antagonist to the federal government's border policies. He suggested without evidence in the spring that migrants with COVID-19 were putting Texans at risk as a result of Biden easing Trump-era immigration measures. Abbot began June by moving to shutter more than 50 shelters that house thousands of migrant children.

His intentions to resume one of Trump's best-known and incomplete promises—building more of the wall—is a step Texas has not previously taken amid a decade of escalating spending and deployments to the border with Mexico.

The last high-profile attempt to build a wall with crowdsourcing was led by Trump supporters and Steve Bannon, the president's former chief strategist, who was later charged with duping thousands of donors to the project. Trump pardoned Bannon on his last day in office.

The promises of the new barrier come on top of plans for Texas state troopers to begin arresting border crossers and jailing them for state crimes, such as trespassing. Abbott said "homes are being invaded" along the border. Landowners are losing livestock and crops, Abbott said, because of "the carnage that is being caused by the people who are coming across the border."

U.S. Customs and Border Protection recorded more than 180,000 encounters on the Mexican border in May, the most since March 2000. But the numbers were boosted by a pandemic-related ban on seeking asylum that encouraged repeat attempts to cross because getting caught carried no legal consequences.

Nearly 19,000 unaccompanied children were picked up along the border in March, by far the highest month on record. April was second-highest and May was third-highest.

Immigration has been a weak spot for Biden.

A poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in May showed that 43 percent of Americans approved of his handling of the issue, while 54% disapprove. Republicans across the U.S. have seized on that dissatisfaction, with even GOP governors in Idaho and Nebraska saying they, too, will send a small number of state law enforcement officers to the border.

Trump made dramatic inroads with Latino voters last year along the Texas border, which has long been a stronghold for Democrats but is also more socially conservative than the state's liberal big cities. Texas' Rio Grande Valley was a major backdrop of Trump's anti-immigration policies, but wall construction and Border Patrol staffing also created jobs.

Some Democrats and immigrant rights groups have questioned the legality of Abbott's plans, though no court challenges have yet been filed. U.S. Representative Vicente Gonzalez of Texas, a border Democrat, said solutions are needed, but not the kind Abbott wants, to slow migration numbers. He said walls have never worked and that Abbott should invest in technology such as cameras and sensors.

"I think he's got it horrifically wrong," he said. "He may be talking to the national audience. But clearly, that doesn't represent the majority of Texans."

Greg Abbott
Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a press conference on details of his plan for Texas to build a border wall and provide $250 million in state funds as a "down payment" on June 16, 2021, in Austin, Texas. Ricardo B. Brazziell/Austin American-Statesman via AP