(NewsNation) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced Monday that Mike Banks, a retired Border Patrol agent, will be the state’s first “border czar.”
NewsNation partner Border Report wrote that Abbott announced the new position during a press conference where construction crews were building the second segment of a state-funded border wall in South Texas.
The Texas Tribune reports Banks, who only retired from Border Patrol ten days ago, will work with the Texas National Guard, Texas Facilities Commission and state troopers to accelerate the building of this wall.
During the news conference, Banks said his top priority is to make the state of Texas “the least desirable place for illegal immigration,” but gave few specifics on how he planned to do so,” the Dallas Morning News reported,
“I don’t think it’s going to be that difficult,” the newspaper quoted him. “I’m going to apply the applicable laws that are out there that should be applied within my ability.”
Banks, according to Abbott, has over three decades of experience in federal law enforcement, including 23 years in border security operations and administration along the southern border.
The Austin-American Statesman noted that he was quoted in several news outlets about conditions at a “crowded, foul-smelling facility” for detained immigrants in McAllen, Texas, when former Vice President Mike Pence visited in 2019. Many of the nearly 400 men there had not showered for 10 to 20 days, because the facility did not previously have showers, Banks had said. However, he said, it ended up getting a trailer shower.
Pence said at the time that the McAllen facility was a “prime example” of the United States’ need to secure its borders, as the facility “is overcrowded and our system is overwhelmed,” Reuters reported.
According to Border Report, one of Banks’ biggest jobs will be to help with the construction of the state-funded U.S./Mexico border wall by encouraging more private landowners and locals to buy into secure borderlands.
“As long as we can get property owners to allow us to build that would be the hope — to connect,” Banks told Border Report.
This wall isn’t without controversy, however. U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, a Democrat, told Border Report that Texas is wasting taxpayer funds by making its own border wall.
“It’s just another one of Abbott’s usual political circus stunts on the border, at a monumental cost to taxpayers. He has spent hundreds of millions of state taxpayer dollars along the border and he has had zero impact in slowing migration to Texas,” Gonzalez said.
Last year, in another move some also criticized as a political stunt, Abbott started bussing migrants coming across the Texas-Mexico border to sanctuary cities such as New York City, Chicago and Washington, D.C.
According to a news release from the governor, as border czar, Banks will report directly to Abbott, and “ensure border security strategies are fully executed in Texas in the absence of meaningful federal action.”
Abbott has been a vocal critic of the Biden administration’s border policies. When the president visited the border earlier this month, Abbott greeted him with a letter which began: “Your visit to our southern border with Mexico today is $20 billion too little and two years too late.” It was Biden’s first trip to the border as president.
Abbott, according to the Texas Tribune, didn’t say how much Banks will be paid in his new position. NewsNation reached out to the governor’s office for more information on his salary, and was told to file a public records request.
“I’m humbled. I really am,” Banks told Border Report after Abbott’s announcement. “The governor is very serious about securing Texas’ border and I’m excited about this opportunity.”
Banks’ office will be based out of Weslaco, but he will travel along the border, and state, as necessary, the release said.