WESLACO, Texas (Border Report) — Since Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in June announced the state would “step up” and erect its own border barrier along the Rio Grande, only 6 miles of wire fencing so far has been completed, some of it just temporary razor fence coils laid on the ground, officials with the Texas Military Department said Thursday.
Lt. Col. Dan Garrison of the Texas Military Department, who is an engineer in charge of the fence-building that is part of Operation Lone Star, said they have secured commitments from private landholders to allow fencing to be built on a total of 62.75 miles in five counties along the Texas-Mexico border. The counties include Val Verde, Maverick, Starr, Zapata and Webb.
Currently, the Texas Military Department is building on six private properties along the border, Garrison told media during a news conference Thursday at the Texas Department of Public Safety regional office in Weslaco, Texas.
He said the barrier is being put up for the safety of migrants, as well as landowners.
“There’s a big safety aspect in building this barrier. The intent is to stop that crossing in places where people could potentially get hurt,” Garrison said.
Civil rights groups allege Operation Lone Star violates Title VI and unfairly targets Black and brown migrants. On Wednesday, 10 organizations filed a complaint with the Department of Justice requesting an investigation and asking that federal funding associated with the operation be revoked.
Two miles of the fencing has been put up in the past two weeks in rural Starr County east of Rio Grande City.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott plans to visit the site in Rio Grande City on Saturday morning along with Texas General Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush; DPS Director Steve McCraw; Texas Military Department Adjutant Gen. Tracy Norris; and a few state lawmakers, the governor’s office announced Thursday.
The Texas General Land Office gave the Department of Public Safety access to 3,100 acres of farmland to put up temporary border fencing.
But Garrison told Border Report that the wire fencing placed in Starr County is concertina wire, and the coils stand no taller than 4-feet off the ground. It is a temporary barricade that can be moved easily “in case of a caravan.”
He said the razor wire deters and entangles and stops migrants from crossing the Rio Grande and into the United States.
“If there is a need to stop movement quickly, we can surge to any area and literally place (down) miles within hours,” he said.
Abbott has repeatedly supported the operation and criticized the Biden administration for not doing enough to secure the border, in his opinion.
“President Biden’s reckless open border policies have created a humanitarian crisis that is enriching the cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers,” Abbott said in March.
Since Operation Lone Star began on March 4, there have been over 9,000 criminal arrests, and 2,347 criminal trespass arrests and over 167,000 migrant apprehensions, DPS Lt. Chris Olivarez said Thursday.
The operation has involved the placement of giant shipping containers alongside the riverbank near Eagle Pass, as well as a current boat blockade of the Rio Grande near La Joya, Texas, in Hidalgo County. Troopers work alongside National Guard troops and other agencies, and Olivarez said the border barrier is a very visual and effective way of deterring migrants from illegally crossing.
National Guard troops also have arrived in Texas from several other states to support the operation.
Currently, the Texas Military Department is negotiating to build temporary wire fencing on nearly 200 additional riverfront miles, Garrison said. Negotiations with half of those miles are with landowners in Zapata County and Webb County, which is home to Laredo.
None of those negotiations currently include land in Starr County, where Abbott plans to visit on Saturday.
The bulk of the fencing — 4.4 miles — has been built in Val Verde County, where a surge of 15,000 mostly Haitian migrants closed down the Del Rio international bridge in September as they crossed from Acuña, Mexico.
Garrison said construction is slow going, bogged down by areas of bedrock and extremely soft soil. They build at a rate of only a half-mile per day.
He says they are only signing agreements that they know they can complete within six months.
“So the faster we’re able to build, the more agreements we’re able to put on the books and the farther we can go,” Garrison said. “We’re trying to build as fast as we possibly can right now.”
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.