Texas ‘Border Czar’ Takes Charge as State OKs Wall Outside Laredo
Doing work that Washington won’t, Texas is erecting a 10-mile-long, three-story-high wall outside Laredo. And to speed construction of additional barriers along the Rio Grande, Gov. Greg Abbott hired a veteran U.S. Border Patrol official as the state’s first-ever “border czar.”
The wall contract, the largest awarded by Texas thus far, won’t come cheap at $224 million. But when Mike Banks gets the first foot built he’ll be well ahead of Vice President Kamala Harris, Washington’s own border boss. Instead of meditating on “climate change” and “root causes” of migration, Banks is tasked with actually doing something.
Banks said his top priority “is to make the state of Texas the least desirable place for illegal immigration. I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult. We just need to be more aggressive.”
Laredo (population 256,000, with another 467,000 across the river in Mexico’s Nuevo Laredo) is the only major border city without some type of border wall. Since Abbott announced in June 2021 that Texas would begin building its own barriers, the state has awarded six contracts totaling $841 million to erect 37 miles of walls in Cameron, Starr, Val Verde, Webb and Zapata counties.
In other high-traffic areas, Texas has stacked large shipping containers to create “steel walls” in an effort to block migrants. South Texas ranchers say physical barriers are needed to stop the destruction of their property by migrants who tear down private fences and leave tons of garbage in their wake.
Banks – a Border Patrol official for more than 20 years, serving under four presidents, including as agent in charge of Border Patrol stations in Weslaco and McAllen – will also coordinate Operation Lone Star efforts to repel migrants attempting to enter Texas from Mexico.
Last September, Abbott expanded a “border disaster declaration” to 54 Texas counties, and has surged state troopers and National Guard units to the most affected regions, while enhancing criminal penalties on aliens who violate local and state laws.
The only thing Texas can’t legally do is remove illegal aliens. State officials believe that’s the federal government’s job, but the Biden administration isn’t much interested in doing it. Which makes Texas’ labors ever more costly, and Sisyphean.