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Questions remain over feasibility of Texas building a border wall itself

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 6:40 PM CDT
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KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) - Late last week, Gov. Greg Abbott announced plans for Texas to build a wall along its southern border, even though President Biden paused construction at the federal level months ago.

Questions remain over if Texas has the legal authority to do so and how it would pay for the project.

“The federal government has a lot of authority on immigration; it has almost occupied the field of immigration enforcement,” Muzaffar Chishti, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, told KWTX.

“Most of the relevant areas where a wall with Mexico could be built is either on federal land or is on private land,” he said.

Depending on where Abbott wants to build the wall, that would mean the state would have to condemn land through eminent domain, a process that tied up the Trump administration in multiple legal battles.

“In all situations, whether the federal government does it or the state government, eminent domain uses a power that is subject to a lot of resistance, and he will meet that resistance,” Chishti said.

“In the scheme of things, these are sort of symbolic statements, and I think the fact that the governor hasn’t said the location where the wall will be built indicates that this may be more symbolic than the announcement would suggest,” he added.

It also remains unknown how Texas would pay for a wall.

State lawmakers allocated about $1.1 billion for border security for the next two years, with the lion’s share going to the Department of Public Safety for trooper salaries, vehicles and equipment.

That is about $300 million more than lawmakers allocated for public safety in the last biennium, according to Eva DeLuna Castro, a budget expert at Every Texan.

However, she said there is no money set aside in the budget specifically for the border wall.

“If it costs more than $300 million it’s not coming from general revenue,” she said.

She said the money could potentially come from the state’s nearly $11 billion Economic Stabilization Fund, but there are some strings attached to that money.

“If they use more than about $4 billion out of the fund, then some money that’s supposed to be transferred for state highways, that doesn’t get to happen,” she said.

Alternatively, about $16 billion in federal pandemic relief funds could be used, but Abbott has already said that lawmakers will get the say in where that money goes during a special session.

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