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Texas Gov. Abbott announces military base at border in Eagle Pass

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(EAGLE PASS, Texas) — Texas is building a new military base for National Guard members deployed to the southern border in Eagle Pass, Texas — where state and federal authorities have been in a tense conflict over dealing with immigration — Gov. Greg Abbott said.

At a news conference on Friday, Abbott announced the construction of what he said would a new “base camp” that could house up to 2,300 soldiers.

“As opposed to being scattered around many different places across this region, they will be operating out of one place. It will amass a large army in a very strategic area. It will increase the speed and flexibility of the Texas National Guard to be able to respond to crossings,” Abbott said.

Officials expect that by mid-April they’ll have a 300-bed capacity and will add another 300 each month until completion, Texas Maj. Gen. Thomas Suelzer, Abbott’s top military adviser, said at the Friday press conference. The camp will include several features like large dining halls, individual rooms for soldiers and medical care facilities.

The move may also deepen the tension between the state and federal governments as Abbott continues to implement his own strategies to deter migrants from crossing in between ports of entry at the southern border.

Against the city’s wishes, Texas seized full control of a Shelby Park on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande in January, enclosing a 2.5-mile area with barriers and concertina wire and staffing it with Texas National Guard troops.

It has been the epicenter of state and federal government showdown as Abbott continues to restrict Border Patrol’s access to the area, preventing them from apprehending migrants crossing in one of the region’s major hotspots.

The Biden administration has sued the state of Texas over a law that would give new authority to local police to crack down on those suspected of entering the country illegally.

Last month, the U.S. Supreme Court intervened in the state-federal dispute and issued an order allowing federal authorities to cut down the razor wire installed by Texas in areas where it was otherwise difficult to help migrants in distress.

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has been critical of the Texas governor, calling Abbott’s unilateral actions on the border “unconscionable.”

“It is unconscionable for a public official, to deliberately refuse to communicate, coordinate, collaborate with other public officials in the service of our nation’s interests, and to refuse to do so with the hope of creating disorder for others,” Mayorkas said in a recent interview with the Associated Press.

At the Friday press conference, Texas Maj. Gen. Suelzer said that in the coming weeks the Texas National Guard will be expanding operations and installing new barriers north and south of Eagle Pass, an indication that the state continues to build barriers despite the Supreme Court ruling last month that Border Patrol agents are allowed to remove or destroy razor wire fencing to apprehend migrants attempting to enter the United States. Suelzer did not specify if the expansion of those efforts means they will also restrict access to federal agents in those areas.

Without providing any evidence, Abbott claimed his efforts at Shelby Park and in other parts of the border are responsible for the number of crossings in the area dropping in recent weeks and increasing in Arizona and other parts of the border. The state’s operations at Shelby Park cover roughly 1% of the entire southern border. But the governor did acknowledge that the number of migrant encounters in the region might once again climb in the coming months.

“As we all know, come springtime, there’s going to be additional caravans that are making their way through the southern and central part of Mexico deciding where they are going to be going,” Abbott said. “We want to make sure that when they come to the crossroad about, ‘Are they going to go to Texas? Are they going to go elsewhere?’ They will know the wrong place to go is the state of Texas.”

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