Speed Reads

Abbott's Wall

Wyoming banking heir donated 98 percent of private funds for Abbott's Texas border wall

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott's (R) solicitation of private funds for a state-built barrier along the Mexican border raked in $54 million, but $53.1 million of that came from one donor, Timothy Mellon, a Wyoming billionaire and grandson of the late banking tycoon Andrew Mellon, The Texas Tribune reports

"Before Mellon's donations, Abbott's private fundraising campaign had stalled at about $1.25 million around mid-August, two months after its launch — a drop in the bucket for a project with a price tag estimated in the billions of dollars," the Tribune reports. Then Mellon's money poured in over a few days in late August, and "the donations have since stalled again." Mellon made his contribution in stocks, not cash, which means he will likely get a tax break from the donation.

Mellon appears to have no connection to Texas, but he did donate $20 million to America First Action, former President Donald Trump's super PAC, last year, and has given heavily to other Republican election funds, the Tribune reports.

Along with Abbott's crowdfunding, the GOP-run Texas Legislature has approved nearly $3 billion in taxpayer money for border security, including $750 million earmarked for border barrier construction. Abbott, facing a primary challenge from his right flank, has focused on the border since March. 

The border fencing is intended in part to add to Trump's wall, scrapped by President Biden, but it's also part of a design to arrest migrants on ramped-up trespassing charges

"The quickly assembled system of arrests, detentions, and releases of migrants has been plagued by missteps since its onset, including families being improperly separated, violations of due process, and a lack of coordination among federal, state, and local officials," the Tribune reports. Last week, a state judge ordered the release of nearly 250 migrants who were arrested under Abbott's plan but never charged, and a state prosecutor dismissed charges Monday against 11 migrants who said state troopers forced them to walk for 20 minutes to private property and climb over the fence so they could be arrested for trespassing. 

Defense attorneys say that kind of alleged entrapment isn't unique. "We have heard reports and several of our clients have recounted that they are actually called over onto the river onto private property," Texas RioGrande Legal Aid's Kristin Etter tells the Tribune. Texas state police have arrested about 1,300 migrants on trespassing charges. Most are released within a month.