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From His Expensive Border Wall To Redundant Inspections, Greg Abbott’s Nativism Costs All Texans

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No other governor in the nation has carried out a more cruel, ineffective, and wildly expensive anti-immigrant agenda than Texas Republican Greg Abbott. Across the country, Republicans as part of their downward trajectory on immigration, have proposed or implemented dehumanizing, dangerous, and wasteful policies attacking migrants, including those seeking asylum. 

Chief among them has been the Texas governor, who has unlawfully detained Black and Latino migrants under Operation Lone Star, dumped migrant children and parents in the bitter cold on Christmas Eve, and attacked Texas communities using dangerous and deadly white nationalist “invasion” rhetoric. But while Abbott and his GOP enablers in the state legislature believe they’re carrying out policies that will hurt only vulnerable migrants and their families, they’re hurting Texans too. Here are five anti-immigrant policies that cost all Texans:

  • The costs of Abbott’s border wall keep growing … and growing … and growing. Abbott has appointed himself the apparent successor to Donald Trump’s racist and ineffective border wall, ordering the construction of border wall sections in the state. It hasn’t come cheap. Texas has doled out $830 million in border wall contracts as of January, with one contractor landing a nearly $140 million agreement for just seven miles of barrier. The three brothers who own Sullivan Land Services Company are—shocker—Abbott mega donors to the tune of over $250,000. None of these costs include the price of acquiring land in order to build. Unlike the federal government, Texas isn’t allowed to seize land, so it either has to be donated, or purchased. But some landowners who’ve had their property in their families for generations have been offered a pittance compared to the enormous profits that private businesses and political mega donors are making from building scant miles of wall. “It’s a colossal waste of money on a project that’s not going to do much to fix the challenges we have with migration. And they know that,” Tricia Cortez, Laredo environmental activist and No Border Wall Coalition co-founder told the Texas Observer. But Abbott isn’t done just yet. The Texas legislature has advanced a bill that would allocate $1.5 billion for an additional 50 miles of wall along the Rio Grande. “At its current rate of cost, the tab for Texas taxpayers would be upwards of $17 billion,” the Texas Observer noted.
  • Abbott’s redundant border checks drew bipartisan blowback and cost businesses hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. In retaliation over the Biden administration’s correct decision allowing the ineffective Title 42 policy at the border to expire in May 2023, Abbott instituted a policy directing increased inspections of commercial vehicles at ports of entry. The problem: the vehicles had already undergone federal inspection, making checks by state officers redundant and completely unnecessary. These secondary checks resulted in a 60% drop in commercial traffic, massive delays of up to 30 hours, rotting produce, and drew significant ire from our closest trading partner Mexico, the federal government, and even prominent members of Abbott’s party. “Your inspection protocol is not stopping illegal immigration,” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said in a letter. “It is stopping food from getting to grocery store shelves and in many cases causing food to rot in trucks—many of which are owned by Texas and other American companies.” While Abbott relented under the bipartisan and international backlash and lifted his redundant inspections after just over a week, the economic consequences from his publicity stunt were significant. Losses to fruit and vegetable producers were estimated to be more than $240 million, said the Fresh Produce Association of the Americas. “Long wait lines for trucks at the border after Gov. Greg Abbott ordered increased inspections cost Texas more than $4.2 billion in goods and services and the equivalent of 36,000 jobs,” The Dallas Morning News said
  • Texas leads the judicial challenges to sensible pro-immigrant policies, hurting residents all across the state and country. Texas has been the tip of the spear of what we call the “anti-immigrant judicial pipeline,” using the conservative courts to further a right-wing, anti-immigrant political agenda. Lawsuits challenging the popular and successful Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the common-sense immigration priorities to target enforcement resources against public safety threats all got their start with judges friendly to the anti-immigrant causes of corrupt Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, eventually moving on to the reliably conservative Fifth Circuit, and finally the Supreme Court, where right-wing justices seal the deal. Meanwhile, Paxton sought to force taxpayers to pay for millions in settlement money over his corrupt abuses, which led to an unsuccessful removal effort this year. Paxton and his allies in the state believe they’re sticking it to the Biden administration when they challenge policies like DACA, but in reality, they’re really hurting their fellow Texans. “Each year, Texas DACA-recipient households pay $750.4 million in federal taxes and $417.7 million in state and local taxes,” the Center for American Progress said. DACA recipients are homeowners and renters, cumulatively paying more than $1 billion annually in mortgages or rental annually. DACA recipients have deep roots in this nation, as parents to nearly 47,000 U.S. citizen children. If Texas succeeds in ending DACA for both prospective and current beneficiaries, it would be responsible for forcible separation of families all over the nation, or the deportation of families that include American citizens from their own nation.
  • National Guard deployment has been a xenophobic boondoggle that could cost Texans up to $2 billion annually. Abbott in 2021 deployed thousands of Texas National Guard troops to the Texas – Mexico border as part of the Operation Lone Star scheme. While Abbott claimed the deployment would “combat the smuggling of people and drugs into Texas,” it’s instead been plagued by chronic pay issues, lack of equipment including sleeping and restroom facilities, major fiscal irregularities, political maneuvering, and a string of tragic suicides among troops. Despite troops openly questioning the mission’s purpose – “Texas National Guard troops call Abbott’s rushed border operation a disaster,” one 2022 headline read – Abbott’s only doubled-down, deploying additional troops following the expiration of Title 42 in May. Roughly 4,500 Texas National Guard were stationed at the border as of February 2023, at a cost of up to $101 million per month. The Texas Military Department revealed this past February that it needed $460 million just to stay afloat this year. Republicans subsequently moved $480 million from other state funds to continue funding Abbott’s operation. However, the Texas Military Department has admitted that the deployment’s costs could reach as much as $2 billion annually. Texas’ ploy has caught on in other states where GOP governors are eager to exploit migrants for political gain. In just one example, Virginia Gov. Greg Youngkin orderedNational Guard troops to Texas, a mission that’s turned up exactly zero fentanyl but cost Virginia taxpayers $3 million dollars.
  • Abbott’s signature Operation Lone Star is a likely illegal program and cruel waste of historic proportions. Texas has already wasted billions in state (and possibly federal) funds on Abbott’s ineffective, wildly inhumane, and wildly expensive border operations. Exactly how much? More than $4.5 billion so far, with Abbott’s cruel and likely illegal Operation Lone Star scheme burning through $2.5 million dollars a week as of last year. The policy has been in place for more than two years and has in part targeted Black and Latino migrants for arrest under the guise of state trespassing law. Abbott and Texas lawmakers also swindled roughly $1 billion in federal coronavirus funds to keep his program running, and eyebrow-raising use of federal funds has since been under probe by the Treasury Department watchdog. Congressional lawmakers urged the watchdog to investigate Abbott using federal funds like some personal ATM of hate, writing that he was diverting money from critical public sector resources. Abbott may have to return the money if the watchdog rules against him. Or rather, the taxpayers may have to return the money that he shifted around. 

Despite the massive spending, Operation Lone Star’s efficacy is unclear. The Wall Street Journal reported that state officers have swept up U.S. citizens – proving his nativist policies hurt all – and carried out arrests that have nothing to do with immigration enforcement. 

Just last week, Texas Republicans have also advanced a grab bag of anti-immigrant proposals that include a law purporting to give state officers new mandates to arrest people they suspect are in the state illegally. This also hurts Texans, by likely leading to racial profiling. “One Texas representative is concerned HB 4 could lead to officers mistakenly arresting U.S. citizens who live on the border if they don’t have proof of citizenship handy,” Rep. Veronica Escobar tweeted. “And @USGAO has reports of immigration agents removing ‘70 potential U.S. citizens’ between 2015 and 2020.”

“The way that the law is written is just so vague, so essentially it is just open season on people of color throughout the state of Texas,” said Jennefer Canales-Pelaez, Texas policy attorney and strategist for the Immigrant Legal Resource Center.