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Texas governor announces plans to build 80-acre base in Eagle Pass for up 1,800 National Guard troops

By Raja Razek, Michael Williams, Camila DeChalus and Nikki Carvajal, CNN

(CNN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Friday announced plans to build an 80-acre base to house up to 1,800 Texas National Guard members near Eagle Pass – the border city at the center of a contentious feud between the state and Biden administration over federal immigration policy.

“Before now, the Texas National Guard had been scattered across this entire region in cramped quarters, away from fellow soldiers and sometimes traveling long distances to do their job,” Abbott said during a news conference while flanked by a banner that read “Future Home of the Texas Military Department, Forward Operating Base.”

The base camp, which Abbott said would “dramatically improve conditions” for soldiers, will have the ability to expand to incorporate up to 2,300 personnel, the governor said.

Abbott, who was accompanied by the state’s border czar, Mike Banks, and Texas military department Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Suelzer, said the cost of base construction would be “minimal.” He cited savings from housing guard members for Operation Lone Star at the base rather than in hotel rooms, where many guard members are currently housed. The cost for the construction of the new base was not given during the news conference.

The camp is set to feature a dining facility, a recreation center, laundry facilities, individual rooms for troops and health care facilities, a statement from Abbott’s office says.

The Republican governor of Texas has been at odds with President Joe Biden over federal immigration policy and migrants crossing the US – Mexico border.

In 2021, Abbott announced the launch of Operation Lone Star, the state’s independent border security initiative, to fight illegal immigration in response to what Texas officials called “reckless open border policies” from the Biden administration.

Since then, tensions have mounted as state authorities placed razor wire along the countries’ border, hindered federal law enforcement’s access to areas of the border and continued to send migrants from the border to Democrat-controlled cities across the US.

A woman and two children, who were migrants from Mexico, drowned in an area last month near Eagle Pass, where state authorities had hampered federal access.

“Texas’s failure to provide access to the border persists even in instances of imminent danger to life and safety,” a letter from Department of Homeland Security General Counsel Jonathan Meyer read after the migrant deaths. “Texas has demonstrated that even in the most exigent circumstances, it will not allow Border Patrol access to the border to conduct law enforcement and emergency response activities.”

Last year, Texas officials sued the Biden administration for cutting razor wire at the border. The Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote last month that Border Patrol agents could remove razor wire installed in the Eagle Pass area as part of Abbott’s security initiative while the state’s legal challenge to the wire-cutting plays out.

The Department of Homeland Security has demanded Texas give it “full access” to the border, arguing immigration enforcement is a federal matter. Abbott and other Texas officials have vowed not to back down.

“Texas would not be able to respond to President Biden’s border crisis without the brave men and women of the Texas National Guard, and it is essential to build this base camp for them,” Abbott said on Friday.

The governor has previously accused Biden of failing to fulfill his constitutional duty to protect the nation’s borders and wasting taxpayer dollars “to tear open Texas’s border security infrastructure.”

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