By Bethany Blankley (The Center Square)
Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that a new “border czar” has been named to oversee border security in Texas, Mike Banks, the newly retired US Border Patrol agent supervisor.
President Joe Biden designated Vice President Kamala Harris as a “border czar” in 2021, claiming she would be involved in border security efforts. Harris continues to receive criticism for not providing any oversight, never visiting the border and claiming that the border has been closed multiple times after capturing or avoiding capture of a record number of illegal aliens, according to federal data.
Abbott has created a “special adviser on border matters” and Texas’ first-ever border czar, something the federal government has refused to do.
Abbott made the announcement in front of a section of the border wall under construction in San Benito, Texas, in Cameron County. He was joined by Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw and Texas Military Department Major General Thomas Sulzer.
“Building a border wall and adding hundreds of miles of other barriers,” Abbott said, “is the only way Texas will respond to President Biden’s refusal to enforce the immigration laws of the United States of America.”
Referring to Texas law enforcement efforts through Operation Lone Star, he said, “We have turned back more than 32,000 illegal immigrants trying to cross into our country. We have arrested more than 24,000 criminals. We seized enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman and child in the entire United States of America. And we’re targeting cartels that have profited from President Biden’s illegal immigration policies.
“Illegal immigration is a full-time job in Texas,” Abbott said, and Mike Banks is the “perfect choice” to become Texas’ first border governor. Banks, who has decades of experience serving three states and Washington, DC under four presidents, has “seen firsthand the struggles of cattle and communities caused by open borders,” Abbott said. “He understands the dangerous effects that Mexican cartels have on our country.”
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Banks, a Border Patrol agent for 23 years, said he was “humbled” by the opportunity to help protect the southern border, something he had dedicated his life to and was very passionate about. He said he hopes to strengthen relationships with law enforcement partners and the community to advance Texas’ border security efforts.
Abbott said it would cost the state $25 million per mile to build the border wall, which would vary based on location. Part of the cost is associated with materials, while the other part is acquiring rights to build on the land – meaning paying private landowners for part of their property.
“One thing that has slowed down our process” in building the border wall, he said, is “getting those rights.” After getting the land rights, the state is speeding up the construction of more of the wall, he said.
The Texas Facilities Commission has begun a research and procurement process for construction of the wall in 2021. On December 18, 2021, Abbott began construction of Texas’ first border wall on state land in Rio Grande City.
On June 20, 2022, the first 1.7-mile section of wall construction was completed in Starr County, according to TFC.
TFC Executive Director Mike Novak testified before the state Senate Finance Committee last July that within a year, TFC had completed the first segment of the program’s permanent infrastructure. TFC, a state agency with fewer than 400 employees, took over a job previously handled by the US Army Corp of Engineers with about 37,000 personnel, he said, “to solicit, contract, engineer and build a permanent wall along the Texas-Mexico border.”
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Texas DPS has identified approximately 40 miles as a “high priority for securing the border.” At $25 million per mile, the state is expected to spend $1 billion on border wall construction.
In July 2022, TFC launched the second phase of its border wall project, approving the purchase of $43 million worth of bollard panels to build 12.8 miles of wall. It continued to approve building designs on the following moths. By December of last year, the installation of another division had begun in Cameron County — the site Abbott announced Monday.
Syndicated with permission from The Center Square.