Jan 31, 2023

Gov. Greg Abbott Gives Update On Texas’ Efforts To Secure The Border Transcript

Gov. Greg Abbott Gives Update On Texas' Efforts To Secure The Border Transcript
RevBlogTranscriptsBorder SecurityGov. Greg Abbott Gives Update On Texas’ Efforts To Secure The Border Transcript

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference on border security on Monday. Read the transcript here.

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Gov. Greg Abbott (00:14):

That’s not a button.

I want to thank everybody for joining with us here today for a landmark announcement. First of all, I want to thank the folks who are with us, including Major General Suelzer, who is the adjutant general for the Texas National Guard. We have Colonel Steve McCraw, who is the director of the Texas Department of Public Safety. We have Eddy Betancourt, Commissioner with the Texas Facilities Commission, and we have a special guest I will introduce you to here shortly.

First, I’ll tell you this and that is building a border wall and adding hundreds of miles of other barriers is only one way that Texas is responding to President Biden’s refusal to enforce the immigration laws of the United States of America. We have turned back more than 32,000 illegal immigrants trying to cross into our country. We’ve arrested more than 24,000 criminals. We have seized enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman, and child in the entire United States of America. We have targeted the cartels that profit off of the illegal immigration policies of President Biden.

Well, combating illegal immigration in Texas is a full-time job. It’s a job that requires a leader whose only focus is responding to President Biden’s open-border policies. Today I’m announcing a Border Czar to fulfill that mission. We found the right person for the job in Mike Banks. Mike Banks is an award-winning border patrol agent. He has held important border patrol leadership positions for more than 20 years, serving under four presidents. He has served on the border here in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as in Arizona and California and at the United States Border Patrol headquarters in Washington, DC. He retired from the border patrol about 10 days ago. Mike has seen firsthand the struggles of ranchers and communities caused by open borders. He understands the dangerous impact that Mexican drug cartels have on our country, the human trafficking, the drug running, as well as the smuggling of deadly drugs like fentanyl.

He’s worked with mayors and other governmental leaders in both the United States and in Mexico. He has collaborated with the United States Military, ICE, the National Guard, DPS, as well as local law enforcement. Mike will work in the Office of Governor for the state of Texas and report directly to me. He will be headquartered in the border region in Weslaco, Texas. He will travel frequently up and down the border as well as around the state as needed. Mike will tap his expertise to deploy strategies that reduce illegal immigration and keep our community safe. He will work on things like the surge operation like we used in El Paso last month. He will collaborate with the National Guard and DPS as well as other state agencies along with local officials and landowners on other border security measures. He will work with the Facilities Commission to accelerate the building of the border wall in Texas.

Texas, we’re not going to stand idly by while the Biden administration refuses to enforce the immigration laws as our borders are. Mike Banks will work with stakeholders and communities, law enforcement on the streets to enforce the laws on the books, and drive down illegal crossings. He has a proven record of going toe to toe with the cartels and winning. Now, he will bring that winning record to help protect Texas from Biden’s open-border policies. I’ll introduce to you Mike Banks.

Mike Banks (04:49):

Thank you, Governor. As the Governor said, I’m extremely humbled to be selected by the governor for this opportunity. Protecting national security and protecting the borders of this nation has been something that I have dedicated the last 23 years of my life to and I’m very passionate about it. I look forward to working and continue working with our stakeholders, our law enforcement partners in the community, and leveraging everything we can to further protect our great state of Texas and the United States. Thank you.

Gov. Greg Abbott (05:20):

Thank you. Now, Steve McCraw, Director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Steve McCraw (05:25):

Thank you. Mike, welcome to the Texas team. I think you know very well and we were discussing earlier that no state has done more to support the men and women of border patrol and its mission than the state of Texas, and no governor has dedicated more time and energy and effort in terms of public safety, homeland security, and border security than Governor Greg Abbott. I think you’ll feel comfortable here.

You’ll also find out we get along here in Texas and get things done. In fact, I’m not taking a shot at our esteemed members in the US Congress, but I can tell you this, is that Texas State legislature gets done more in six months than they do in two years, plain and simple. Under the governor’s leadership and continued support, we’ll do what we can to do everything we can to protect Texas from all things and all threats foreign and domestic. Thank you.

Gov. Greg Abbott (06:19):

Now, Major General Suelzer.

Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Suelzer (06:21):

Thank you, Governor. Good afternoon, everyone. Major General Tom Suelzer. The Texas National Guard has forces arrayed across the Texas-Mexico border from El Paso down to Brownsville in this unprecedented effort to secure the border and prevent, detect, and interject transnational criminal activity along our border. To that end, we’ve produced over 130 miles of barrier, consisting of 72 miles of eight foot fencing with razor wire, including 58 miles of concertina wire. Most recently, you may have seen with the help of our partners we erected anti-climb fencing along the river in the El Paso area in order to block the flow of illegal immigration into downtown El Paso, and further to the east, the dangerous crossing on Highway 375 into the El Paso area.

Additionally, we continue to work with DPS on the river in boats at security points and also in the brush to stop the smuggling of people, drugs, and weapons into Texas. Additionally, we’re increasing our drone program by increasing our number of small, unmanned aircraft systems to 28 aircraft. We are currently training additional FAA-certified pilots to fly those drones to increase our effort on the border. Lastly, I applaud the governor for selecting Mr. Michael Banks to be the Border Czar. We look forward to working with you, Michael, and securing the Texas border.

Mike Banks (07:56):

Thank you.

Gov. Greg Abbott (08:03):

Can I see you a second? I don’t know what on here to push [inaudible 00:08:15]. Sure. I get that. But [inaudible 00:08:19] here do I push? Right there? All right. Next, we have Commissioner Betancourt with the Texas Facilities Commission.

Eddy Betancourt (08:33):

Thank you, Governor. Thank you. Thank you for coming. It’s been a great team effort at the Texas Facilities Commission. My name’s Eddy Betancourt. I’m the commissioner. It was a year and a half ago we started this program and we’ve come a long way. We have a great team in our staff and we’re looking forward to working with Mike here. Whatever you need, Mike, we’re at your service. Governor, thank you very much.

Gov. Greg Abbott (08:55):

Thank you. Thank you for what you guys are doing. We’ll take you a few questions. Go ahead.

Speaker 7 (09:01):

Governor, for the funds allocated for the Laredo area [inaudible 00:09:06]-

Gov. Greg Abbott (09:06):

Can I get you to start the sentence again?

Speaker 7 (09:12):

For the funds for the Laredo area border wall, $224 million for a nine-mile stretch, roughly $24 million per mile, what can you say about the steps that are being taken to reduce the cost of the border wall as a continuing project?

Gov. Greg Abbott (09:25):

First of all, you are right. Our estimation is we build the border wall is that it will cost approximately $25 million per mile. That varies depending upon the location. Part of that is the materials for the wall. Part of it is the cost of acquiring the rights to be able to build the wall on land. One thing that has slowed our process a little bit is getting those rights to build the wall. With the work of the Facilities commission, we have accelerated that process of acquiring the land rights and now we’re able to be able to build even more wall going forward. Go ahead.

Speaker 9 (10:04):

[inaudible 00:10:04] Humanitarian Parole in apprehensions down at the border and saying it is not necessary for the lawsuit against the Humanitarian Parole. Your take on that?

Gov. Greg Abbott (10:14):

The use of the parole system by the Biden administration is completely illegal, completely contrary to already existing federal law. We filed a lawsuit against it. I’m going to tell you, we’re going to win that lawsuit just like we won our other lawsuits against the Biden administration. It’s the Biden administration that’s acting lawlessly as it concerns the border, and it’s their policies like this parole policy that will attract even more people to cross the border illegally, and that’s one of the reasons why Texas needs a Border Czar today.

Speaker 9 (10:49):

He claims 90% down on apprehensions.

Gov. Greg Abbott (10:50):

So, again, just like the Biden administration has misled America by saying that the border is open, the Biden administration is misleading America by talking about a reduction in the number of people coming across the border this month. The reason is because every January is the lowest month for border crossings if you just look at cycles. Because of the Biden administration’s actions, we can expect those numbers to increase dramatically in spring and in the summer.

Speaker 10 (11:22):

Governor, a lot of people who are getting Humanitarian Parole were not jumping the river. They’re not going in between ports of entry. They’re signing up for CBP1 or they’re access to [inaudible 00:11:37]. How do you address that? When people come, they wait in line, they fill out the application, and then they get in. Again, Humanitarian Parole, people are not jumping in the river and those numbers are beginning to show that.

Gov. Greg Abbott (11:48):

You’re incorrect in what your assessment is of the numbers. To be clear, Humanitarian Parole applies to four countries and only 30,000 people from each of those countries. It doesn’t apply to all the other people from those four countries and does not apply to the people who are coming from 150 different countries across the globe. There are people who will continue to come across the river. However, again, our goal is, because the Biden administration has these border policies that attract more people to come here lawlessly, we need to have a czar who’s going to be in charge of helping us protect the border here in the state of Texas, someone with a proven record of doing exactly that as a border patrol agent.

Speaker 11 (12:33):

Does the state of Texas have an issue with people using CBP1? Do you have an issue with that?

Gov. Greg Abbott (12:46):

With people using …?

Speaker 11 (12:46):

CPB1, the application people apply to come across-

Gov. Greg Abbott (12:49):

Yeah. Any way the Biden administration violates federal law to attract more people to cross the border is a way that will just do nothing more than increase illegal immigration as opposed to following the immigration laws already on the books. You all may recall that I was in El Paso at the president’s request. He asked me to be there on the tarmac to greet him and I did so. I gave him a letter, and that letter contained five bullet points. Among those five bullet points were laws that are already in existence that the Biden administration is violating and I asked the president, “Please just enforce the laws already on the books.” Go ahead.

Speaker 8 (13:26):

Governor, I’m sorry. This is question for the Czar, if that’s all right.

Gov. Greg Abbott (13:26):


Speaker 8 (13:26):

Thank you.

Gov. Greg Abbott (13:34):

Go ahead and sit up.

Speaker 8 (13:34):

Mr. Banks, can you tell me what some of your priorities are as Border Czar and how you can [inaudible 00:13:44] with federal laws and state law?

Mike Banks (13:47):

For me, the number one priority is to make the state of Texas the least desirable place for illegal immigration to cross. Right? I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult. It’s the exact same thing: I’m going to apply the applicable laws that are out there that should be applied within my ability working with the Texas Guard. I worked with the Federal Guard as the patrol agent in charge of the Weslaco Border Patrol station, as a patrol agent in charge of the McAllen Border Patrol Station. We’ve worked with the federal military troops; now I’m going to be working with the state military department. We’ve worked with DPS, both from the federal level and now at the state level. So I don’t think it’s going to be a very difficult transition at all. We just need to be more aggressive.

Speaker 8 (14:30):

Two more questions: Governor Abbott, [inaudible 00:14:31] how long [inaudible 00:14:31] how much is it going to cost and also [inaudible 00:14:44] and they’re concerned now [inaudible 00:14:52]?

Gov. Greg Abbott (14:52):

Sure. Is it 1.3?

Speaker 12 (14:53):

One and a half.

Gov. Greg Abbott (14:56):

First of all, this particular segment is going to be one and a half miles. The cost of a wall in general is about $25 million a mile on average across the board. The reason why this wall is located here and the reason why you’ll see other segments of wall placed in different locations around the state is because we are putting wall up where we get the land rights from the landowner to be able to build a border wall. Most of the land on the border is private property and we have to get the rights from the private property owners to build a border wall on those segments. You’ll see more of these going up.

You raised a question about concerns of this community, about migrants going around the wall into the community. For one, one thing that the Border Czar has done in the past is to work with local officials to address their concerns. He knows, because we’ve already talked about this, one of his first responsibilities is to work with the mayor in this community to make sure that we are addressing their safety needs. That also is the same role that the Texas Department of Public Safety has. We want to make sure that the surrounding community will be protected and safe as possible, but also we will be hoping that neighboring landowners in this region will allow us to be able to build a wall on their property, so we can just continue to make this a continuous wall. Couple of more questions. You’ve already got a couple. Let’s see if there’s somebody else that wants to ask one. If not, we’ll come to you.

Speaker 13 (16:37):

What is the biggest hurdle you have with the private landlords to get permission [inaudible 00:16:38] property?

Gov. Greg Abbott (16:37):

Listen: some private lands just don’t want a wall on their property. And so, that’s one. Sometimes, it’s the type of wall that they want; maybe they don’t want this wall, maybe they want a different type of wall, and that’s what the general was talking about earlier when he talked about more than a hundred miles of different types of barriers that have been placed. For those who don’t want a wall like this, we may have different barriers that we can put up. Our goal is to be able to collaborate with property owners up and down the border so that one type of barrier or another will be able to be erected that will reduce illegal immigration into the state of Texas.

Thank you all very much. Oh. Now … All right. I want to show you all building the wall as we speak. Let me see this-

Speaker 12 (17:28):

Top left, sir.

Gov. Greg Abbott (17:30):

Top left. Right here?

Speaker 12 (17:30):

Yes, sir.

Gov. Greg Abbott (17:31):

Press on that?

Speaker 12 (17:32):

Yes, sir.

Gov. Greg Abbott (17:33):

And then?

Speaker 12 (17:33):

[inaudible 00:17:36].

Gov. Greg Abbott (17:36):

Can you guys hear me? All right. You’re good to go with the project.

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