AUSTIN, Texas — Texas has broken ground on the construction of a wall along its southern border with Mexico, a deliberately extravagant gesture intended to show a willingness to defend the area against illegal immigrants while Washington remains idle.

The go-it-alone effort is meant to deter mass migration to and through Texas after a year that saw more people come across between ports of entry than during any year in the Border Patrol’s 97-year existence.

“We're actually breaking ground and sending a message more importantly to the federal government that if you're not going to do your job, Texas will,” Texas Land Commissioner George P. Bush said in an interview.

“We are a can-do people — a resilient people," Bush said. "We know when we're being stiffed, and in this case, it's this blatant disregard for enforcing federal immigration law.”

Construction began this week in Rio Grande City, a small town in southeastern Texas. Republican Gov. Greg Abbott will announce the project during a press conference slated for Saturday. The wall will be at least 18 feet tall and stretch two miles.


The state has focused its initial building efforts on a 3,100-acre tract of land where a farmer’s crop has been “totally destroyed” due to the number of people who come across the Rio Grande and then trample through the fields, Bush said.

Bush, the son of former Florida governor and 2016 GOP presidential candidate Jeb Bush, as well as nephew to former President George W. Bush, has overseen the state’s search for land to build on.

In July, the Texas General Land Office sued the Biden administration in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas for preventing the border wall from being constructed. President Joe Biden canceled billions of dollars of border wall projects, including ones that were funded by Congress during the Trump administration and others that were funded with money that the White House diverted from defense and treasury coffers. The Texas General Land Office sued over the congressionally funded portion of the wall.

In late November, Bush signed a lease agreement that authorized the Department of Public Safety to begin construction on a portion of land in Starr County. The Texas Facilities Commission is overseeing the actual construction.

The section of farmland getting wall now is owned by the Texas General Land Office and leased to the farmer, allowing the state to build on its own land.

Abbott’s promise in June to finish former President Donald Trump’s border wall in Texas will likely be the biggest project the state undertakes during his administration as he looks to secure a third term. Furious about the 21-year high in illegal immigration at the 1,950-mile southern border, Abbott vowed to bolster the state’s border in an effort to prevent continued drug and human smuggling.

Texas has more miles along the international border than the other southern border states: Arizona, California, and New Mexico. The Texas-Mexico boundary stretches for 1,241 miles, but just 145 miles of it has any sort of substantive fence or wall, according to federal planning documents from Trump-era wall projects and information provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Abbott wants to put up a wall on the remaining 1,100 miles. At an average cost of $20 million per mile, it is a tall order — even for the massive state of Texas.

The southern tip of Texas is roughly half the distance for Central American migrants traveling from Mexico’s southern border than if they traveled to California, making it a far quicker and cheaper journey for migrants. Consequently, Texas has seen more than half of all illegal immigration at the 1,933-mile border since the start of the government’s annual year in October 2020.


Migrants have far fewer issues getting across the border in Texas than in other states because just 12% of the land has any sort of government-funded barrier to block people from entering. Recognizing that, the Republican governor put a $250 million down payment toward the project and hired a program manager to begin planning where a wall should be built.