Greg Abbott's Border Wall Plan Is Doomed To Fail

The Texas governor wants to keep incoming migrants out at all costs. But those costs are insurmountable.


With former President Donald Trump out of the White House, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) has taken up the mantle of border hardliner. He recently announced his intent to build a wall along his state's border with Mexico in response to what he calls an inadequate response from the Biden administration to increased migration rates in the Southwest.

"While securing the border is the federal government's responsibility, Texas will not sit idly by as this crisis grows," Abbott said on June 10.

That tension—between federal and state authority when it comes to border security and immigration enforcement practices—apparently hasn't given Abbott pause, though he recognizes that it exists. Despite his plan's dubious legal, moral, and financial grounds, he's pushing forward in the name of securing the border.

Abbott has so far provided little information about how he will finance the project, which will undoubtedly carry a hefty price tag. In Texas, one section of Trump's border wall came out to be $27 million a mile. Abbott intends to provide $250 million in state revenues as a "down payment." Those funds will come from a disaster account, a transfer made possible because he issued a disaster declaration in order to take a number of executive actions against migration. Abbott also expects that crowdfunding will help supplement state funds. So far, that effort has collected roughly $450,000.

David Donatti, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas who specializes in border issues, has concerns about Abbott's financial approach.

"He has declared a disaster, and by that authority, he's moving $250 million into an account that allows him to" build a border wall, says Donatti. "For a state like Texas," $250 million "is a lot of money…that could be used for hurricane recovery, toward recovery from something like the freeze that we experienced." Donatti calls it "an absurd abuse of power if nothing else," even though the result of that abuse would provide "an ineffective solution to people coming to the United States."

According to the governor, construction would also hinge on voluntary land concessions from borderlands residents. In Texas, most land along the border with Mexico is privately owned. That gives Abbott two options: either entice landowners to donate their property or seize it from the unwilling. To build his wall, Trump chose to initiate land grabs in the borderlands through eminent domain, which is a legal doctrine that allows the government to seize private property for public use. Affected landowners nominally must receive just compensation, though practically the process is rife with abuse.

Abbott has not yet sought the approval of Texas lawmakers to begin eminent domain proceedings, according to Donatti and Ilya Somin, an eminent domain expert who teaches law at George Mason University. "[Abbott] would need to get the Texas state legislature to pass a law authorizing the use of eminent domain and appropriating money for it," says Somin. "Until that happens, he couldn't even start trying to condemn the property. And so far, he hasn't even indicated that he wants to try to use eminent domain." Donatti says "that doesn't mean he won't try," in which case he's bound to enter a quagmire. "I do think the governor will confront the reality that trying to take private property from Texans is a bad political idea."

That means Abbott may be left with a piecemeal wall, built on a donated parcel here and a donated parcel there. "It may well be that this is more an exercise in public relations than an exercise in actually building an extensive wall," explains Somin. "If he makes noises about building a wall, and builds a little bit of something somewhere, then that may be good enough to get him the favorable boost of publicity in right-wing circles that he wants."

Even if he does invoke eminent domain authority, Abbott will be unable to build a wall at the border itself. A treaty governing the boundary between Texas and Mexico dictates that no fortification can disrupt the Rio Grande border or the flood plains along its shores. Donatti explains that the Trump administration had to build "a mile or more inland" to avoid this. "So effectively actually creating American territory south of the border wall." It's a "catch-22—either [Abbott] risks violating an international treaty, which is just a non-starter, or he has to build substantially inland, thereby ceding Texas to an area south of the border wall," Donatti says. Texas communities extend all the way to the border, making this an inevitable thorn in Abbott's side.

Abbott is one of many GOP governors who have recently taken decisive stances on immigration enforcement in the face of the new Democratic presidential administration. He joined Gov. Doug Ducey (R–Ariz.) in issuing a call to other governors to send law enforcement to assist with border security efforts. "The elected officials in border communities don't support [Abbott's] plans" though, says Donatti. Instead, the border has simply become a partisan talking point and the centerpiece of popular narratives. Border visit photos of the tactical-vested Gov. Brian Kemp (R–Ga.)—who, it bears mentioning, governs a state that doesn't even border a border state—certainly drive that point home.

Critics point out that a militarized attitude toward the border and immigration could have harmful consequences. Abbott has come under fire recently, along with Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, for using charged rhetoric to describe immigrants crossing the Southwest border. The two have repeatedly characterized the influx of arrivals as an "invasion." Democratic Texas politicians quickly invoked the El Paso Walmart shooting, in which the gunman carried out an attack "in response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas." Rep. Veronica Escobar (D–Texas) castigated Abbott and Patrick, tweeting, "If people die again, blood will be on your hands."

Regardless of the wall's future, Abbott is already implementing policies beyond a physical barrier to keep migrants out. As Reason's Billy Binion reported, Abbott "has directed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) to clear out the Dolph Biscoe Unit, a state prison in Dilley, Texas, so that law enforcement can arrest and detain some undocumented migrants there." He's made it so that migrants are subject to "aggravated trespassing" charges, a misdemeanor, giving the state the authority to arrest migrants who are otherwise governed by federal immigration frameworks. As Donatti points out, that "quite clearly tramples on the federal government's prerogative to immigration control." Abbott has also revoked licenses for child care services found to be looking after undocumented migrant kids, which might lead to those minors being shuttled into inadequate emergency detention facilities.

Abbott's plan for the wall so far is low on detail, but the immigration frameworks he's forging leave little room for doubt. Rather than equip border communities with resources to process asylum seekers and their claims, as advocates like Donatti recommend, the governor has chosen to pursue an approach that will put him at odds with the federal government, international treaties, and his constituents. "I would hope that any solution moving forward doesn't just involve border communities as a pawn," Donatti says. Unfortunately, Abbott seems determined to relegate them to that position.

NEXT: Arkansas Deputy Kills Teen ‘Armed’ With Antifreeze Trying To Fix a Truck

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85 responses to “Greg Abbott's Border Wall Plan Is Doomed To Fail

  1. “quite clearly tramples on the federal government’s prerogative to immigration control.”

    It would seem that the fact there are trespassing criminals shows that the immigration control has failed.

    1. Does reason even believe the feds should control the border?

      1. Yeah, this, can’t have it both ways. Either immigration control is a legitimate power of the federal government or it isn’t.

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        2. Pedo Chemjeff doesn’t think so.

        3. the US Constituion, last I knew it being the Supreme Law of the Land, does veryclearly task FedGov wjth maintaining a SECURE border. And a million people waltzing accross the line in the sand without even so much as a howdyis NOT “secure”. Most never even get a cursory medical examination. Back when Ellis Island was the gateway for ALL immigrants from Europe, very individual had to go thruogh a medical screening as well as other sorts of examination. And NO ONE got a free ride on the backs of those who were already here. They came, often with next to nothing in their satchels and kit bags, to WORK and BUILD a new life this side the puddle.

      2. They’ve made it abundantly clear over the years that they don’t.

        Their position is that insofar as the border gets controlled it is to be controlled by the Feds, but the manner in which the Feds do so is far too restrictive and that the laws governing immigration are far too complex for any restrictions to be applied evenhandedly.

  2. Or… he’s grandstanding (grandsitting)?

  3. Doomed, the lesson is never try…

  4. I’m anxious to know OBL’s take on this.

  5. Poor Commies at unreason.

    America is in Civil war 2.0. Trump was the last President duly elected by Americans. We have el presidente Biden who is trying to run this banana republic.

    1. The Nazgul ruled against Illegals.

      Supreme Court says no right to hearing for some immigrants

      This Civil War 2.0 might be over sooner than Democrats wanted.

      1. Poor inbred traitor

        1. Poor commie unreason bots.

    2. Tapioca Republic

  6. Abbott seems to be trying to distract people so they’ll forget that he was completely on board with all of that totalitarian nonsense using COVID-19 hysteria as an excuse for a full year. Kristi Noem he’s not.

  7. Love how you and the leftist activist see nothing wrong with throwing ever increasing amounts of other people’s money at the issue. GFY with the “more resources” canard of the left, that does nothing to actually address the problems busting the state budgets. Perhaps focus on stemming the flow of illegal immigrants instead of demanding we pay for every want of the global population.

    1. Perhaps focus on stemming the flow of illegal immigrants

      They have, many times. Solution: Work permits. Presto, no longer illegal!

      1. So you’re saying you were for the 2006 compromise Bush pushed forward. You didn’t say that at the time. You held out for citizenship and providing welfare to those who crossed.

        1. I remember full well how the Democrats reacted to his proposal. The organized rallies where people flew the Mexican flag and set Bush effigies on fire were especially nice touches.

      2. Good. First let’s finish the border wall, crack down on those here illegally, kick out all these people with their bullshit asylum claims, and anything else needed to get rid of the illegals.

        Then we can assess the actual need for these programs and act accordingly. I’m sure we will need a robust migrant worker program.

        1. Let’s kick out the anti American traitors like you too!

          What do you do on the Fourth of July? Do you burn American flags or just not celebrate?

          1. HOW is demanding FedGov D THEIR ASSIGNED JOB to KEEP the borders SECURE make one an anti-American traitor”? Seems to me he’s FOR we who are here legall, and against those who are entering and staying illegally. The laws have not changed. They ar NOT being upheld That means the doofi who are allowing the invasion are also oathbrekers, as they ALL swore an oath to uphold defend, implement, the US Constitutoin as written. And NONE of them are abiding by that solemn oath. That is called felony perjury.

            1. He’s a traitor because he supports overthrowing our government.

      3. Right, the same people that argue liscencing for work is wrong also argue it is right? Sorry but if they’ve argued for work permits it was years ago before the open borders crowd took over.

      4. Yup.

      5. having a permit does not mean they will have WORK. No work means.. we who are already here will feed, house, clothe, cure, transport, supply, defend, them.

        The problem is not that they’re getting here illegally but that they are getting here with no visible means of support besides FedGov, and a whole lot of state money being stolen from that state’s taxpayers to support the millioins invading.
        Let them apply for assulym fromOUTSIDE the US< which is what the LAW requries, and is uinversally so round the world.

        1. I’m not sure what to say to someone whose beliefs about why Latin American and Mexican people come to the U.S., and what they do when they are here.

          They come here to work. If there were no work, they wouldn’t come. They pay local taxes and often pay into FICA and Medicare withholding; if they were here on a work visa, that would happen even more often.

          1. “”They come here to work. If there were no work, they wouldn’t come.””

            Perhaps some. But an asylum claim would suggest work isn’t the reason.

  8. “The Texas governor wants to keep incoming migrants out at all costs”

    And there is the obvious faulty logic of assuming ALL illegal border crossers must be immigrants.
    Propaganda that Reason uses to promote their view on the subject.

    1. And that all migrants are illegal and unwanted…
      Conflating illegal and legal is one of the major tools of those wanting no limits at all on immigration.

    2. by definitioin those who go through the proceedures and legally enter and take up lawful residence in a nation not of their birth is “immigrant”. Those who fail or refuse to go thogh those estalbished proceedures areNOT immigrants, they are invaders. Nor are they “migrants”. No papers, no permission, no lawful entry at the border, NOT an “immigrant”.
      Words have meanings, and meanings have consequences.
      The consequencesof allowing this massive invasion are already beyond unacceptible.. As the present practice continues, it will become downright fatal.

      No, the traitors are the ones supporting, allowing, promoting, excusing the massive invasion by foreigners who have no more right to be physically rpesent within the USA than I do to live, work, do business in Australia or New Zealand. And to give a big fat clue, I have ZERO right or authority to live as a permanent resident and work as a legal employee in Australia or New Zealand. I tried applying to both, was rejected, and denied entry. Are you holding that WE are moreally proper and A Australia/New Zealand are dirty? Nah. YOU”RE the one who is dirty if you hold to that position.

  9. Nothing like a Reason article that relies upon multiple statements by a left wing ACLU attorney who supports the Biden/Harris policy to invite/allow tens of millions of the world’s poorest people to cross the Mexican border for free food, housing, education, healthcare and childcare in hopes most will become registered Democrats.

    Reason benefactor Charles Koch (who will make even more money from depressed wages when more illegal immigrants arrive) has probably recommended a huge bonus for Harrigan for writing this article.

    1. ^

  10. The wheels are coming off…

  11. The Nazi-Slavers just might loose this civil-battle too! 🙂
    Always good news to hear some State’s haven’t sold out to Nazism like CA did.

    1. correction *lose*….

  12. And of course, a wall will do absolutely NOTHING to stop people crossing the border. They’re like door locks on your house. They will stop a random drunk from walking on in, but they won’t stop anyone determined to get inside. Ditto for a border wall. They’ll stop some drunk Mexican from falling into the Rio Grande and floating north of the border, but the won;t stop anyone determined to get in.

    It’s just a stupid symbol for people fixated on symbols.

    Now I haven’t said a damned thing here about whether immigration is good, bad, or in between. I’m just pointing out that a wall won’t stop people from migrating north.

    Hell, the only reason the Berlin Wall worked is because it was manned every few hundred feet by human beings, in a nation state where everyone had to carry papers all the time, and a culture where ratting out your neighbors was encouraged. And people STILL managed to slip out.

    It’s a stupid symbol paid for by your taxes so you can feel good about paying taxes.

    1. Armed guards that will shoot violators will make the wall much more effective.

      1. Which the public will never tolerate. There was no public appetite for “kids in cages”. Do you think people will tolerate corpses of dead Mexicans instead?

        1. True, with Biden, now we have kids in cargo containers.

        2. There was plenty of appetite for the years before 2016 and seems to be the same now…

        3. kids in cages was a fabrication by the media. There are several timesmore kids in nasty detention circumstances now tthan there ever were under Trump. WHY? Because once he made it clear entry was not awaltz acrss some sand, most folks gave up on the idea and stayed home.

      2. I disagree. That plan will make the wall UNNECESSARY. When word of the first five parties crashing the border and getting shot makes its way back to Guatemala, Nicaragua, El salvador, Panama, the tide will turn and the flood will dwindle to almost nothing.. just like it did when Mr. Trump began to insist on following the laws as written and require assylees to remain OUTSIDE the US until their case can be looked at. Those who wanted to come in to work, own land, build businesses, etc, jumped through the hoops and got here. THEY are prospering in the main.

        1. Agree. If a few shot a day made the news, word would get out and the border would be normal again.

    2. “Locks keep honest men honest.”

      A well maintained physical barrier will reduce the aggregate amount of immigration from Central America to a degree. Don’t ask me how much more than the methods we currently use, which require quite a bit more political commitment and wax and wane with each swing of the pendulum, but it would certainly be more effective than the current arrangement.

      1. As chemjeff said above, a simple, more humane way to deal with it is more work visas. Don’t keep anyone out, let them come in temporarily.

        1. temporarily for ten years? et REAL. There are rules for clearing for lawful entry. USE THEM.

    3. So…. Fences around prison yards does absolutely nothing?? That must be why there aren’t any business yards with bob-wired fencing around them…

      Oh wait; Actually fenced business yards are everywhere…

      1. “”So…. Fences around prison yards does absolutely nothing??””

        They work so well you need armed guards to make sure no one climbs them. The fence is not the main concern for escapees.

        1. I’ll give you my fence when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

        2. Seems to me that fence has to first be scaled to be overcome. Scaling takes time and introduces risk (what happens if you fall from the top?) If combined with a live video feed tower that can spot scaling attempts, a wall might slow a crossing attempt to give border patrol enough time to respond and make an arrest. Overcoming a wall is obviously more difficult than just walking across open ground. It’s weird that all this gets lost in the debate about whether walls would have any efficacy.

          1. “”Overcoming a wall is obviously more difficult than just walking across open ground.””

            Sure, how much money do you want to spend just to raise the level of difficulty? They took serious risks to get their. Falling from the fence would be one more in a chain of risks.

    4. Walls work fine. You don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.

      1. Obama, Pelosi Feinstein Clintons Schumer, etc ALL have nice high walls surrounding their own private residences. Add armed security to ensure the walls remain walls rather than tunnels or briges. and they are a VERY effective tool.

    5. The wall issue is one of the better issues to determine whether someone is being intellectual honest or being intellectually dishonest in order to continue advancing a tribal narrative.

      Of course walls work. To claim otherwise is gaslighting of the highest order. Simply because something isn’t 100% effective does not mean it doesn’t work sufficiently.

      1. The question is whether it is _cost_ effective. It’s not. It’s a huge waste of public funds.

        1. No. It’s a good move, considering the usurper Biden has committed treason by opening our southern border.

          You’re just confused, as you are delusional, and unintelligent.

        2. I’ve seen estimates that a wall across the entire us border could cost somewhere between $25-50 billion. That’s a one-time cost $50B with some probable upkeep and manning costs in the several millions to let’s just say low single digit billions per year. Compare that to the current costs to feed, house and educate illegal aliens annually. Some estimates out it at an annual cost of about $116B

          While some illegal aliens pay taxes, there’s no incentive to do so ( I certainly would avoid paying taxes as much as I can too) and illegal aliens are overall net consumers of taxpayer funded services, not net contributors. A $116Bannual cost versus a $50B one-time cost and means you could pay an annual maintenance cost of $50B (a dramatically unlikely figure) and still save a net $16B a year. I’d guess annual maintenance and manning costs would be little more than what is already spent to man our border and current border stations.

          I’m not sure it’s a fair blanket statement that a wall is “not cost effective.” You probably want to pour over the data of the overall efficacy of walls reducing border crossings and what percent of illegal aliens enter the US by crossing the border. Id bet you could model a fairly accurate predictive model for when a complete border wall will pay for itself.

          1. “some probable upkeep”?

        3. you prefer the presently supported policy of letting, or even helping millions of folks coming accross our sotherhn border with nought more than the shirt on their back and an empty stomach, needing medical attention, and being bussed off to some quiet place where unskilled labour will become their lot for a few decades if they don’t die of some disease unheard of in these lands first.

          1. Nope. I prefer a system where they can apply for a work visa, legal and regulated.

            1. They can apply. From their homes. Then wait for approval.

              The scum crossing the border don’t want to wait. That’s the problem.

        4. It’s a huge waste of public funds —

          Sure, sure; Protecting this Nation from foreign invasion qualifies as a “waste” but an empty $27B crony socialist speed train project in the desert of CA is totes-okay….. /s

      2. “”Simply because something isn’t 100% effective does not mean it doesn’t work sufficiently.”””

        I have heard that argument a lot since last march.

      3. Curious, how well is sufficiently? 10% reduction in crossings? 30%? 60%?

      4. Oh sure they do. Brandy brought up the Berlin Wall which was designed to keep people in, not out. I remember being there when I was a kiddo. Made a big impression on me.

        There is a wall between Israel and Gaza. It is not so much a wall as a layered defense. It is manned by soldiers. More a fence than a wall because you can see through a fence. There are sophisticated sensors above and below. There are cameras and drones operating at all times. It is backed by armored vehicles, the most lethal Air Force and most effective missile defense in the world for its size. And yet, and yet, it is defense against a determined and ruthless enemy, not peace.

        But we are not talking about a military wall.

        We are talking about a wall to keep out migrants. They wish no harm, just a chance for a better life.

        The average time at Ellis Island to pass through was 3-5 hours. Then you were in America. You could live and work. Your children could go to school. Eventually you could become a citizen. And so our country was built.

        So a simple solution would be to process people with a temporary work and residency permit. Minors should be with parents. Basic background check and health screen should be about as difficult as a drivers license. Citizenship can wait.

    6. not true. you’re assuming a certain implementation of a wall. there is a wall that will keep out illegals. imagine a fence that is 50 yards into us soil. the fence is 20 feet tall with razor wire on top. then 200 yards in from that is another fence like the other. in between the two fences are automated guns that shoot anything that moves in the space. if done right i guarantee it will keep people out.

      1. “in between the two fences are automated guns that shoot anything that moves in the space”

        Lovely. Did you get excited when you wrote that?

  13. “The two have repeatedly characterized the influx of arrivals as an “invasion.” “

    Around 700,000 people trying to cross the Mexico/Texas border so far this year seems pretty much like an invasion to me.

    1. 2020: 4M births in the U.S.

      So without border security – In *JUST* 2020 over 25% of our added population would be from illegal law-breaking trespassers.

      That would only take !!!!!4-YEARS!!!!! to have illegals start multiplying faster than natives.

      Is there really any wonder why the USA is starting to look just like another run-of the mill sh*thole 3rd world country?

      1. This is correct. I am from a town where a lot of illegal immigrants settled in, and in just 20 years it is a completely different place. The change has happened at a stunning speed.

  14. Abbott’s “plan” to build a border wall is a non-starter. Meanwhile, Biden’s plan to control every little bit of the lives of 8 billion people and thereby the climate of the entire planet is merely problematic.

  15. Perhaps a wall won’t work as well as the MAGA crowd says, but I suspect it will work a lot better than liberals claim. You cannot have open borders and a welfare society. And it is true that leaving the border open is inhumane in many respects, even to the people trying to get across.

    Who is effectively controlling the border now? The cartels, Biden Admin, or the states?

    1. A wall is amazingly stupid idea though. I mean, drones, more outposts, sure. That makes some sense.

      But of course this will fail. It’s not designed to succeed. It’s designed to secure the votes of the hopeless idiots out there who can’t put two and two together.

      1. Actual if you have drones and more outposts walls work better.

  16. >>equip border communities with resources to process asylum seekers and their claims

    kewl does “process” include sending some of them home or are you just describing a human plinko board?

  17. Fiona needs a new parlor maid and an underbutler.

    1. my monocle needs polishing, dammit

  18. The border wall is doomed to fail as opposed to the rousing success seen today. Say what?

    1. Biden says they’re doing a great job at the border. Nothing to see.

  19. If you build it, they will come…and tunnel underneath it.

  20. Not sure going back to the 2016 idea is the best. I suspect that Gov. Abbott is smart enough to think of some real solutions but he does not seem inclined to do that.

    I know there is a perception that the problems at the border are a crisis, but is it really. I like to see Reason take a real look at the problem and say how bad the problem is in comparison to other this country faces. Right now I be worried more about how many residents are in suspect high rises in American cities.

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