Saturday, April 13, 2024

Texas Gov. Abbott builds new base at Eagle Pass amid fight with Biden – The Washington Post

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Flanked by armed members of the National Guard, Texas Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced plans Friday to build a base housing up to 1,800 troops in Eagle Pass, near the riverfront area where leaders of state are at odds with the Biden administration on immigration. enforcement.

The base, planned to house an initial 300 troops by April, is Abbott’s latest effort to limit border crossings into Texas as part of a mission dubbed Operation Lone Star that he began less than two months later. the inauguration of President Biden. The grassroots projects come as the country prepares for a presidential election and deals with the hundreds of thousands of migrants who have crossed the southern border illegally in recent months.

The base “will bring together a large army in a very strategic area. This will increase the speed and flexibility of the Texas National Guard to be able to respond to railroad crossings,” Abbott said Friday during a news conference in Eagle Pass. “It will also mobilize substantial forces to expand the razor wire barriers that are being erected.”

The 80-acre “forward operating base” – a term used by the US military to describe many of its camps dotting Iraq and Afghanistan — will sit near the Rio Grande. It will also include command posts, weapons storage rooms, vehicle maintenance bays and a helicopter pad, according to Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, head of the Texas Military Department.

Forward Operating Base Eagle, as Abbott called it, will reduce costly hotel stays and hour-long drives that some soldiers make to fulfill their duties at the border, the governor said.

“Previously, the Texas National Guard was scattered throughout this region, in cramped quarters, far from their comrades and sometimes traveling long distances to do their jobs,” Abbott said in a statement. “This base camp will considerably improve the living conditions of our soldiers. »

A contract, awarded Feb. 9 to Team Housing Solutions of New Braunfels, Texas, calls for a Sept. 7 completion date and a price tag of $131 million to build the base, the military newspaper Stars reported and Stripes.

The base will be located about 6 miles south of Shelby Park – the battleground between Texas and the federal government that has been the scene of thousands of unauthorized border crossings from Mexico.

Abbott took control of Shelby Park, located in Eagle Pass along the banks of the Rio Grande, in January. He blocked Border Patrol agents from accessing the park, which they have long used as a staging point. Abbott argued the federal government was not doing enough to stop illegal crossings, but his critics said the move was inhumane and a dangerous overreach of state power.

In January, the Biden administration sued Texas over its immigration policies. Later that month, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered Abbott to let the Border Patrol remove barbed wire barriers that blocked agents from reaching the river to help stranded migrants. Instead, Abbott installed more barbed wire – a move encouraged by 25 Republican governors who signed a letter of support.

Abbott said Friday that the new base will allow National Guard members to install barbed wire more effectively.

“Our goal is to make sure that we extend the effectiveness of this barbed wire to more areas along this border,” he said.

Abbott also received support from the presumptive 2024 Republican presidential nominee in his dispute with the Biden administration. Former President Donald Trump wrote on social media on January 25 that Texas “must have full support to repel the invasion.”

The situation has become so toxic that extremism watchers warn they see signs of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol in Abbott’s defiance of federal orders, as members of groups like militia visit Eagle Pass.

Texas’ first-ever border czar, Mike Banks, who oversees state border security, said Friday the facility would consolidate troops so they can better do the job the federal government refuses to do.

“It is absolutely absurd that we have to fight the federal government on a daily basis,” he said.

Arelis R. Hernández and Hannah Allam contributed to this report.

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