BORDER SECURITYAt Half a Mile a Week, Gov. Greg Abbott’s Border Wall Will Take Around 30 Years and $20 Billion to Build

By Jasper Scherer

Published 3 July 2024

Three years after Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas would take the extraordinary step of building a state-funded wall along the Mexico border, he has 34 miles of steel bollards to show for it. Texas’ border with Mexico is 1,254-mile long.

Three years after Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas would take the extraordinary step of building a state-funded wall along the Mexico border, he has 34 miles of steel bollards to show for it.

That infrastructure — which has so far run up a price tag of some $25 million per mile — isn’t yet a contiguous wall. It has gone up in bits and pieces spread across at least six counties on Texas’ 1,254-mile southern border. Progress has been hampered by the state’s struggles to secure land access, one of myriad challenges signaling a long and enormously expensive slog ahead for Abbott.

Nonetheless, state contractors have already propped up more wall mileage than former President Donald Trump’s administration managed to build in Texas, and Abbott’s wall project is plowing ahead at a quickened pace. State officials hope to erect a total of 100 miles by the end of 2026, at a rate of about half a mile per week. The governor frequently shares video of wall construction on social media and has credited the project with helping combat immigration flows. To date, though, steel barriers cover just 4% of the more than 800 miles identified by state officials as “in need of some kind of a barrier.” And at its current rate — assuming officials somehow persuade all private landowners along the way to turn their property over to the state — construction would take around 30 years and upwards of $20 billion to finish.

Under Abbott’s direction, state lawmakers have approved more than $3 billion for the wall since 2021, making it one of the biggest items under the GOP governor’s $11 billion border crackdown known as Operation Lone Star. The rest of the money is being used for items like flooding the border with state police and National Guard soldiers and transporting migrants to Democrat-controlled cities outside Texas, all of which Abbott and other Republicans say is needed to stem the historic number of migrants trying to enter the country.

Democrats and immigration advocates have cast the wall project as a taxpayer-funded pipe dream that will do nothing to address the root causes driving the immigration crisis. And they say the governor, in reviving what was once a hallmark of Trump’s agenda, is using public money to boost his political stock.

Even some immigration-hawk Republicans are showing unease about the mounting costs of the wall.

“I am, too, concerned that we’re spending a whole lot of money to give the appearance of doing something rather than taking the problem on to actually solve it, and until we do that, I don’t expect to see much happen,” state Sen. Bob Hall, R-Edgewood, said last fall before voting in committee to spend another $1.5 billion in wall funding.

Abbott’s office did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Jasper Scherer is a politics reporter for The Texas Tribune. This story is published courtesy of the Texas Tribune.The Texas Tribune is a nonprofit, nonpartisan media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them — about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.