Greg Abbott's Creating New Military Base on Texas Border

Greg Abbott’s Creating New Military Base on Texas Border

Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Friday that his state is constructing a military base camp to consolidate National Guard troops near the border, which he called a “win-win” for better soldier conditions and lower statewide costs in battling illegal immigration.

Texas has been the epicenter of the U.S.-Mexico border battle for the past year and a half as Abbott and state officials have taken matters into their own hands because of perceived inaction by the Biden administration and federal government.

This has included lawsuits and federal court battles involving the use of razor wire in highly traversed areas such as Shelby Park in the city of Eagle Pass and floating barriers in the Rio Grande.

The ContextCrossings on the border in Texas totaled 68,260 in January, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection statistics—a massive drop from the 149,806 migrants who attempted to enter the country through the state in December. Encounters there totaled 119,628 and 111,129 in October and November, respectively.

“This will increase the ability for a larger number of military department personnel in Eagle Pass to operate more effectively and more efficiently,” Abbott said about the military camp at Friday’s press conference.

He was accompanied by members of the Texas National Guard in addition to Adjutant General of Texas Thomas Suelzer and Texas Border Czar Mike Banks.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference on January 31, 2023, in Austin, Texas. On Friday, Abbott announced the creation of a military base camp on the border.

Brandon Bell/Getty Images
What We KnowThe first stage of construction has already begun on 80 acres, Abbott said, and will extend along the Rio Grande and six miles south to Shelby Park. The camp will house approximately 1,800 soldiers, with the ability to expand to 2,300.

A 300-bed capacity is expected by mid-April, with 300 additional beds added every 30 days beyond that point. The camp will include individual rooms for soldiers as well as recreational rooms, Wi-Fi and a large dining hall.

Soldiers have sometimes “traveled long distances to do their job” and have occupied cramped spaces, so this will present a “morale boost” for them, the governor said. They will be able to work better and in closer proximity, he added.

“They’ve been living in conditions that were atypical for military operations,” Abbott said. “Now, because of the magnitude of what we’re doing—because of the need to sustain and actually expand our efforts in what we’re doing—it’s essential that we build this base camp for our soldiers.”

The consolidation of forces is akin to “amassing a large army in a very strategic area,” he continued, noting how illegal migrant crossings in the past month have decreased dramatically compared with one month and even one year ago.

Abbott also said an expansion of razor wire will occur, saying its “effectiveness” is apparent in deterring migrants from illegal entry. He said such migrant encounters have dwindled from 3,000 to 4,000 to about 1 percent of that number in recent weeks.

“Illegal crossings are down and, coincidentally, razor wire is up,” he said.

ViewsA user on X (formerly Twitter) said Abbott is doing what the president has been unwilling to do.

“Texas continues to expand border security operations as President Biden refuses to do his job,” the user said. “Texas will hold the line.”

Another user said: “This is great news. Texas has every right to defend itself by any means they deem necessary. To hell with what the Feds say. The Constitution limits federal power, not the States. God bless Texas.”

What’s NextFollowing the nixing of a $100 billion immigration bill earlier this month, federal border legislation remains a long shot, with a lack of partisan agreement on how to proceed.

On Friday, bipartisan House members unveiled the Defending Borders, Defending Democracies Act. The legislation would last just one year and provide the necessary authority to secure the U.S. southern border and $66.32 billion in defense-only funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan.

It would require the suspension of entry of inadmissible aliens “to achieve operational control over U.S. borders,” as well as requiring immigration officers to detain and immediately expel inadmissible aliens.

“Securing one’s borders is necessary to preserving one’s democracy and, therefore, necessary to maintaining world order and world peace,” GOP Representative Brian Fitzpatrick said in a release. “As the world’s oldest and strongest democracy, the United States’ primary responsibility must be to secure its own borders.

He continued: “But we also have an obligation to assist our allies in securing their borders, especially when they come under assault by dictators, terrorists, and totalitarians. Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan are all freedom-loving democracies, they are our allies, and we must assist them in protecting their borders just as we must protect our own. We can, and must, achieve all of the above.”

Update 2/16/24, 3:55 p.m. ET: This story was updated with additional information and background.

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