McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has sent a letter to U.S. Customs and Border Protection urging the Biden administration to quickly build a border wall in Laredo, Texas, and the surrounding South Texas region, and to forgo environmental considerations.
“A border barrier is critical to protecting Texans. The crisis on Texas’s southern border remains ongoing,” read the 12-page letter that Paxton sent Monday to CBP headquarters in Washington, D.C. “Considering DHS’s recognition of the significant benefit of border barriers to prevent the ever increasing harms that have resulted from an open border, the Laredo Sector border barrier project should begin immediately, and the environmental assessment should be waived.”
Paxton cited DHS estimates that encounters of migrants on the Southwest border this fiscal year could exceed numbers seen in the past two decades.
CBP this week released encounter numbers for May, which set a new monthly record.
Nationwide, border authorities encountered migrants 273,309 times in May, representing a 4 percent increase from the 261,780 migrant encounters in April. March and April were both record-setting months for migrant encounters.
Paxton also cited thousands of pounds of illegal drugs, like fentanyl, also seized at the border by authorities. CBP data released this week shows that the amount of narcotics seized in May was among the lowest in the past four years, slightly above March, December 2021, and September 2021.
“The resulting increase in illegal drugs flowing across the border has spurred an opioid epidemic in the United States, with ghastly, if predictable consequences,” the letter said.
The CDC estimates about 108,000 Americans died in 2021 from a drug overdose, Paxton wrote, saying drugs are more of a threat than guns.
“This is the number one cause of death for Americans ages 18 through 45. Not deaths from COVID-19. Not deaths from gun violence. Illegal drug overdoses. And the construction of a border barrier can save American lives by substantially reducing the availability of illegal drugs in the United States. Yet, the border remains open, and the construction of border barriers is handcuffed with bureaucratic red tape, showing once again the Biden Administration refuses to take commonsense border security measures that would save American lives,” Paxton wrote.
CBP data also shows that the majority of drug seizures occur at ports of entry. In the fiscal year 2022, which started last October, 85 percent of drugs were seized at ports of entry.
The Biden administration currently is studying potential environmental impacts that a border wall could have on Laredo, as well as Webb and Zapata counties on the South Texas border.
Some leaders have openly criticized this process as purposely slowballing any new construction.
The Biden administration halted new border wall construction, but it cannot claw back border wall funding that has already been appropriated by Congress.
Laredo has been one of the most united South Texas communities in opposition to new border wall construction and has successfully managed to prevent any building since plans were first announced during the Trump administration.
Currently, the community is working with leaders from its sister city south of the Rio Grande, Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, and pursuing funds and approval for a massive binational river park that would be built on the banks of both sides of the river.
A binational working group traveled to Washington, D.C., last month and met with lawmakers to tout the $500 million project.
But if a border wall is built, then that would negate all park plans as a barrier would block trails and visibility to the Rio Grande, those opposed to a border wall have told Border Report.