Texas – Governor Gregg Abbott and several North Texas leaders joined former president Donald Trump on his visit on the southern border on Wednesday.
Trump used the occasion to express support on building the border wall or as he said in the state’s case “finish the wall!”
Donald Trump attended the border security briefing in Weslaco where Governor Abbott had a meeting with the law enforcement.
The group then headed to the border wall in Pharr, located about 30 minutes away, for what was described as a ‘border wall tour.’
The event turned out to appear more like a campaign rally complete with music, supporters, and giant U.S. and Texas flags that could be seen from Mexico.
Abbott thanked Trump for his administration’s work to secure the southern border and blasting President Joe Biden’s “open door policy” he blames for the surge of undocumented migrants.
“It is a far more dangerous situation than it’s ever been,” said Abbott. “People of Texas are pleading for us to step up. That’s exactly why Texas is stepping up to do the federal government’s job.”
Abbott has pledged $250 million of state budget funds for a “down payment” on a border wall.
The state is also asking for private donations from the public to help pay for the completion.
As of Tuesday, the governor’s office told NBC 5 they have raised over $656,000.
Although exact figures are not yet known and the governor’s office has yet to divulge the price tag of the entire project, there are sections of the border wall that cost $27 million dollars per mile to build.
Abbott said the state’s plan is underway, acquiring land where possible.
Activists and legal experts expect legal challenges will follow, many questioning whether the state has the legal authority to build a wall the federal government halted work on.
Two North Texas leaders were among those invited to the briefing and tour, including U.S. Congressman Roger Williams whose district includes parts of Tarrant and Johnson counties.
“We need to stop catch-and-release and get back to securing the border,” said Johnson. “It’s a job that President Biden is not doing a very good job of.”
Williams said he wanted to attend the meetings because the crisis at the border has spilled into districts across the state, including his.
Asked to respond to critics who say the event is merely ‘political theater,’ Williams said: “It’s not political theater when you come down here. Now, it’s politics that’s got us in this problem, that’s why I’m here because it’s politics. But the fact of the matter is we have to secure our border. We want people to realize the American dream but do it the right way.”
Another Trump supporter, Tarrant County Sheriff Bill Waybourn was in attendance and spoke at length about his specific public safety concerns surrounding the sharp increase of the dangerous drug fentanyl, increasingly smuggled across the border by Mexican drug cartels.
It is an issue Waybourn insists should be a bi-partisan issue and one he would meet with any politician about.
“If Vice President Harris, when she was in El Paso, called and said I want to know about fentanyl, I’m on the boat ready to ride,” said Waybourn. “This should be a bipartisan issue.”
He said he did not, however, receive an invitation to meet with the vice president last week.
The sheriff has long been known for his tough stance on illegal immigration but says he does separate dangerous criminals from migrants desperate for a better life in the U.S.
“I want to make it clear that 98% of the people that are coming across the border are trying to get a better life. I understand that,” he said. “And I know that we need to do something about that. We need comprehensive immigration reform. I think that does include a secure border, that we know who’s coming across our border. But at the same time, we need those people in some cases, we need workers.”
Trump thanked several people, by name, in the crowd for their support during his administration.
He spoke several times about the presidential election that included carrying the state of Texas.
Trump, at times, veered off subject and began speaking about his efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, the tariffs he imposed on China and on Russia.
Returning to the subject at hand, the former president, turned to look at the unfinished border wall and stressed the need to complete the job.
He went as far as saying if he had won the election, the wall would not only have already been completed, it would have been painted.
Trump insists the wall be painted black, he says, so it can be too hot for migrants to try to cross.