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Border wall and aggressive politics: how Texas is trying to escape from the bulk of illegal immigrants

Gov. Greg Abbott hired Michael Banks, a Border Patrol agent who recently retired. He will work with the Texas National Guard and state troops to find ways to keep people from illegally crossing the border, reports Texas Tribune.

Photo: IStock

Governor Greg Abbott announced Jan. 30 that he has appointed a recently retired Border Patrol agent to oversee construction of the border wall, who is "using his experience to deploy strategies to reduce illegal immigration and keep our communities safe."

Abbott said Mike Banks, who retired from the Border Patrol on Jan. 20, will work alongside the Texas National Guard, state military personnel and the Texas Facilities Commission to "accelerate construction of the Texas border wall."

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Banks said his top priority at his new job "is to make Texas the least desirable place for illegal immigration." “I don't think it will be that difficult. We just need to be more aggressive,” he said.

Since President Joe Biden took office, Abbott has been a vocal critic of the president's immigration policies, and in March 2021 he launched Operation Lone Star, sending hundreds of National Guard and state military personnel to border counties to detain migrants crossing the border.

Hundreds of migrants have been charged with petty intrusion and are being held in prisons. Since the start of the operation, the state has spent more than $4 billion on it.

During a Jan. 30 press conference in San Benito, Abbott said "fighting illegal immigration in Texas is a full-time job" and "requires a leader whose only focus is on responding" to the president's immigration policy.

Abbott did not provide details about Banks' responsibilities or how much he would be paid.

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Abbott said Banks had been with the Border Patrol for more than 20 years, serving under four presidents, including as an agent in charge of Border Patrol stations in Weslaco. During the press conference, Abbott also noted the ongoing construction of the border wall and said his office estimated that the state was spending $25 million per 1,6 mile to build the wall.

So far, the state has erected a 2,7 km section of the wall on state land in Starr County as part of a $162 million contract with New York-based Posillico Civil Inc. in November 2021 for the construction of almost 13 km of the wall. In December, Posillico Civil laid another segment of the wall at Los Indios in Cameron County.

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Since Abbott announced in June 2021 that the state would build the wall, the Texas Facilities Commission, the agency in charge of the project, has awarded six contracts totaling $841 million to build and operate the border barrier in Cameron, Starr, Val Verde, Webb and Zapata 59,5 km.

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