Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday that Texas will build a border wall along the state’s boundary with Mexico — but provided no details on where or when.
Abbott declared his plans during a news conference in Del Rio. He said he would discuss the plans next week. The Biden administration issued a proclamation that stopped border wall construction on his first day of office.
Abbott announced the news while discussing a slew of border initiatives, such as a $1 billion allocation for border security in the state budget lawmakers just passed and a plan to establish a Governor’s Task Force on Border and Homeland Security with public safety and state government officials.
“It will help all of us to work on ways to stem the flow of unlawful immigration and to stem the flow of illegal contraband,” Abbott said, while seated next to officials from the National Guard, Texas Department of Public Safety and Texas Division of Emergency Management.
At the conference, Abbott also announced a plans to increase arrests along the border — and increase space inside local jails.
“They don’t want to come to across the state of Texas anymore because it’s not what they were expecting,” Abbott said before being met with applause from those at the conference. “It’s not the red carpet that the federal administration rolled out to them.”
He also announced an interstate compact with Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey to resolve the border “crisis,” and called on other states to do the same.
Abbott’s announcement comes after Republican former state Sen. Don Huffines said he will challenge the governor in next year’s GOP primary — and as part of his campaign also promised to finish border wall construction in Texas.
“We will completely shut down the border until the crisis is solved and eliminate all taxpayer-funded subsidies to illegal aliens,” Huffines tweeted earlier this month. “I am not afraid to take on the federal government.”
Building a wall along the Texas-Mexico border was a key element of former President Donald Trump’s successful 2016 election campaign plan that can be dated to when he was preparing his bid for a Republican nomination in 2014. His promise that Mexico would pay for it remained unfulfilled for the entirety of his administration.
During his term, Trump built 450 miles of barrier — mostly in Arizona and far less in the Rio Grande Valley, according to The Washington Post.
Earlier this month, Trump backed Abbott for reelection in the 2022 Texas gubernatorial election.
On Thursday, Abbott didn’t address the ongoing conflict between himself and the Biden administration that escalated this week after federal officials threatened to sue Texas over Abbott’s order to strip certain shelters for migrant children of their state licenses, which could force the shelter operators — which operate under contracts with the federal government — to move the children elsewhere.
The 52 state-licensed shelters house roughly 8,600 children, according to data from the state. In a letter to Texas officials Monday, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services attorney Paul Rodriguez asked Texas to clarify Abbott’s order and said it could violate the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which states that federal law overrides state laws. He gave Texas until Friday to respond.
However, he did call on the federal government to pay for the “damages” brought on by immigration to the border, claiming landowners are left to foot the bill for people that migrate.
“The border crisis is no laughing matter,” Abbott said. “This is something that also is not a tourism site for members of Congress to make an annual pilgrimage to and see the border, and then go back and do absolutely nothing at the federal government level to solve the crisis.”
Abbott has blamed the recent surge of migrants to the Texas-Mexico border on the Biden administration’s immigration policies, claiming in a disaster declaration this week that new federal policies have paved the way for “dangerous gangs and cartels, human traffickers, and deadly drugs like fentanyl to pour into our communities.”
Two weeks ago, Abbott deployed more than 1,000 Texas Department of Public Safety troopers and National Guard members to the border as part of Operation Lone Star — an initiative he announced in March aimed at beefing up security at the border. Abbott later expanded those efforts to also tackle human trafficking at the border, including a plan for DPS troopers and Texas Rangers to interview unaccompanied minors that cross the border to identify potential human trafficking victims.
During his first months in office, Biden ordered a review of the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols, which required asylum seekers to wait in Mexico until their cases could be heard in U.S. immigration courts.
The Biden Administration has referred to its new policies as a way to be more humane toward migrants.
After Vice President Kamala Harris visited Guatemala and Mexico this week, she told NBC’s Lester Holt, “We have to understand that there’s a reason people are arriving at our border and ask what is that reason and then identify the problem so we can fix it.”
During her trip, she faced backlash from progressives after she told Guatemalans: “Do not come.”
As children, Iyanna Taylor and Noah Newcombe attended Thrive Longview when the nonprofit organization was called Thrive360. The program had a lasting effect on them, and now the teenagers have returned, hoping to have a similar impact on their younger peers.
Thrive Longview teaches middle school-aged students about character development, healthy living and community.
Iyanna, 17, will be a senior at Longview High School. She said she returned to Thrive this summer as an intern because she wants to help children the way her mentor in the program helped her when she was younger.
“I think what really captured my attention is how involved they were,” she said. “They made sure to let us know they were available to us and they care about our needs and what we thought, how we felt, our emotions. One director in particular I remember ... she just helped along with figuring out who I want to be. At that time, I didn’t go to her, but there came a time I needed to talk to her, so I took that opportunity ... and it relieved some of the pressure and nervousness on my heart.”
This summer, she wants to provide that same support for children.
Noah, 16, is homeschooled and said he attended Thrive as a student when he was 12 or 13 and then served as a volunteer and now an intern.
He said he wants to help the students with fitness.
“Your health is really important, and so is trying to maintain that good healthy relationship with your body,” Noah said.
Thrive Longview Executive Director Clent Holmes was a volunteer when Iyanna and Noah were part of the program in middle school. Seeing them as interns this summer is a full-circle moment.
“It is a joy to know that we were a part of their development,” he said. “It’s also very gratifying that they even want to still be here after being around us for so long. Ultimately, it plugs into our mission of transforming the lives of teens. Even though the focus is middle school age, we still like to stay connected as they become high schoolers and even as adults.”
As interns, Iyanna and Noah have responsibilities such as helping in the kitchen, leading exercise sessions, helping in the life skill classes or the reception desk and other tasks.
But the mission is to transform the lives of the children taking part in the program, Iyanna said.
“They come here, and we let them know, ‘This may be your situation now, but it won’t always be that. We’re equipping you with tools so you can grow up and mature and get out of those situations,’” she said. “Even if their environment outside is bad and negative, they come here and we have a positive environment, and we’re giving them well-needed information.
“We’re encouraging them. We’re inspiring them to be better than they were yesterday. Just those little steps will lead to the transformation of their lives. We’re developing their character so they can be better leaders, better teachers, better kids in general. I’m just proud to be a part.”
Being part of Thrive as a leader has helped Iyanna see how the discipline and structure of the program helps the kids. Some of the rules, such as not having their phones during the program, helps them be more engaged with those around them.
“I’m hoping when they think back to this time, they think, ‘Oh, I remember coach Taylor. She always listened to me when I needed help.’ Or, ‘She wasn’t so focused on disciplining me she helped me see it from a different perspective.’ Or, ‘She helped me to see my life in God’s eyes,’ “ she said. “I just want them to see that ... there are structures in place to guide them and we truly care about them.”
A section of Interstate 20 from Longview to Hallsville is scheduled to be closed Sunday evening to Monday morning for demolition work.
The closure is set for 7 p.m. Sunday to 5 a.m. Monday as crews work to demolish the bridge that crosses I-20 at Lansing Switch Road, according to Marcus Sandifer, spokesman for TxDOT’s Atlanta District. The bridge will be replaced.
Eastbound traffic will exit at Loop 281 and be detoured down FM 968 to FM 450 to get back on I-20. Westbound traffic will exit at FM 450 and be detoured up to U.S. 80 before heading to Loop 281 and back onto the interstate.
The demolition had been scheduled to take place this past Sunday before being postponed due to weather. The schedule could again change because of weather or other issues. Anyone with questions should call TxDOT’s Marshall office at (903) 935-2809.
Plans approved in March by TxDOT involve replacing the Lansing Switch Road overpass crossing I-20.
“The current overpass will be demolished and replaced with a wider and taller structure,” area engineer for TxDOT in Marshall Wendy Starkes said in March. “The current overpass has only two 10-foot traffic lanes. The new one will have two 12-foot traffic lanes divided by a 14-foot flush median with 10-foot shoulders and sidewalks on each side. We will also be raising the structure about 5 feet to allow for more than 19 feet of clearance over the I-20 traffic lanes.”
The construction will require closing Lansing Switch Road over the interstate.
East Texas Bridge of Longview was awarded the construction contract with a bid of $3.4 million.
The project should take about 14 months to complete, Starkes said previously.
The city of Longview has its first assistant city manager since 2017.
The City Council on Thursday approved naming Public Works Director Rolin McPhee as the interim assistant city manager, which the council could make permanent in the future.
City Manager Keith Bonds said during the council’s meeting that the move would be “beneficial for operational efficiencies and long-term planning” and provide continuity when Bonds is away.
Bonds praised the city’s “strong team of qualified employees, especially in the executive team” that eliminated the need to use a search firm to fill the position.
“(McPhee) has successfully guided the city through a significant capital project and several bond initiatives as well as leading the largest department in the city,” he said. “I have worked alongside Rolin for all these years, and I know he’ll be very successful.”
District 4 Councilwoman Kristen Ishihara said McPhee has always “been a problem solver for me, and I appreciate that.”
“I think this is an excellent suggestion,” she said. “I can’t say enough about having the admiration of your employees over such a large department and what that says about (McPhee’s) leadership.”
McPhee said he was “humbled for the opportunity.”
“I appreciate the opportunity and the consideration,” he said. “It means a lot to me.”
The city hasn’t had an assistant city manager since Bonds was promoted to acting city manager in 2017 after former City Manager David Willard’s departure.
As part of the change approved Thursday, Assistant Public Works Director Dwayne Archer is now acting public works director.
No salary adjustments were made, and the assistant public works director’s position will not be filled.
Bonds said Wednesday that the changes will give the City Council the opportunity to be “flexible” and “take a step back” if the members decide this isn’t the direction they want to go.
McPhee has worked for the city for more than 20 years, including a six-month stint in 1997 before working a couple of years in Marshall and then returning to Longview in 2000.