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Greg Abbott Promises $250 Million Toward Border Wall, But Could Tap Billions More In COVID Relief Funds

A portion of border fence in Brownsville, Texas, 2018.
Julia Reihs/KUT
A portion of border fence in Brownsville, Texas, 2018.

From Texas Standard:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says he will use $250 million from the state prison budget to construct a border wall in South Texas. The governor has also hinted at using some of the billions in federal COVID-19 relief money to continue the project started by former President Donald Trump.

Todd Gillman, Washington bureau chief for The Dallas Morning News, told Texas Standard that Abbott has not denied the possibility that the $15.8 billion in federal money could be used for the wall – an amount he said could “go a long way” toward its construction.

Texas Democrats have responded to that possibility with a plea to the U.S. Treasury Department, asking it to stipulate that COVID relief money cannot go toward the wall. Right now, the only restrictions are that states cannot use it for pensions or to cover budget gaps after a tax cut.

“‘We’re telling you it wasn’t the intent of Congress to build a wall, which, as you’ll recall, Congress kept refusing to allocate money for when Trump was president and demanding that money,'” Gillman said of the Democrats’ argument.

Abbott visits the South Texas border on Wednesday, where he’ll tour a portion of existing wall. Gillman says the wall segments that were constructed under the Trump administration cost between $20 million and $46 million per mile. About 80 miles of new wall were built during Trump’s term.

If Abbott doesn’t end up tapping federal funds, Gillman says the $250 million in state money he promised to spend would only cover about 10 miles of new wall construction. Still, that could be enough to show some Texans that he’s serious about restricting immigration.

“That may be sufficient for Abbott’s political purposes. It may be sufficient for him to get the signal across that Texas is taking it more seriously than the Biden administration, or he may really be looking at it as a down payment and billions more get pumped into it.” Gillman said.

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Caroline Covington is Texas Standard's digital producer/reporter. She joined the team full time after finishing her master's in journalism at the UT J-School. She specializes in mental health reporting, and has a growing interest in data visualization. Before Texas Standard, Caroline was a freelancer for public radio, digital news outlets and podcasts, and produced a podcast pilot for Audible. Prior to journalism, she wrote and edited for marketing teams in the pharmaceutical and cosmetics industries. She has a bachelor's in biology from UC Santa Barbara and a master's in French Studies from NYU.
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