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Texas is building a base to house National Guard troops to police the border

A MARTÍNEZ, HOST:

Construction is underway on a controversial state military base camp in Eagle Pass, Texas.

LEILA FADEL, HOST:

The base that was authorized by Governor Greg Abbott will span 80 acres and house up to 2,300 National Guard soldiers. Their mission is to secure the Texas-Mexico border, and the project represents the latest escalation in a tug of war between the Biden administration and Texas over who controls immigration on the border.

MARTÍNEZ: Texas Public Radio's Pablo De La Rosa is here with us to share more. Pablo, so why is the state building this base?

PABLO DE LA ROSA, BYLINE: So this is another step of many over the past three years of just continuous expansion on the governor's border security mission, Operation Lone Star, to deter migration on the border. But more than anything, it's a really big leap towards making that mission much more permanent. So it's a big move, but we've seen him challenge the federal government's exclusive purview on immigration enforcement from the very beginning of Operation Lone Star. You know, he's greatly expanded the militarization on the border, deploying barriers which some have called dangerous in the water, deploying heavily armed tactical marine units on the water. So we first heard about this from Governor Abbott when he spoke about the new military base from the construction site on Friday.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

GREG ABBOTT: Our goal is to make sure that we expand the effectiveness of that razor wire to more areas along this border. Having the soldiers located right here, right by the river, it will amass a large army in a very strategic area.

MARTÍNEZ: So you mentioned that it's an Eagle Pass. That's where the base is going to be built, pretty much the symbolic center of Greg Abbott's immigration fight. What's the community in Eagle Pass reaction?

DE LA ROSA: This announcement really blindsided basically everybody. You know, nobody knew anything about this. I spoke to a few people throughout the weekend, even two state reps I talked to hadn't heard about this project. This town, Eagle Pass, has gone through so much over the past few weeks and months, you know, since Texas took over Shelby Park by the Rio Grande, kicking out the federal government. This was a public community space where, you know, people celebrate birthdays. They've celebrated Easter. Now it's totally militarized. And I had a chance to speak with Jessie Fuentes, who's a longtime resident there. He owns a kayak business on the water where those buoys are that I just mentioned. He's a plaintiff in litigation with the state over those barriers, and I had a chance to speak with him.

JESSIE FUENTES: He's created his own immigration force, his own immigration courts. I mean, why are we allowing this to happen? Why are we allowing our governor to become a dictator and authoritarian as to how policy is supposed to be enforced when it comes to immigration?

MARTÍNEZ: So, Pablo, what are the chances then for this becoming yet another legal showdown between Texas and the federal government?

DE LA ROSA: It's definitely a part of it. I mean, the governor has argued in a variety of ways that he believes the state has a right to secure the border. Of course, you know, constitutionally, that has always fallen under the purview of the federal government, exclusive purview of the federal government. So we're actually waiting to hear how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on some Department of Justice lawsuits against Texas over these barriers.

MARTÍNEZ: That's Pablo De La Rosa of Texas Public Radio. Pablo, thanks.

DE LA ROSA: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Pablo De La Rosa