It was just this past weekend when Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott was crying to reporters that Texas needs lots more money after spending billions upon billions of state taxpayer funds on political stunts vaguely disguised as supposed border enforcement initiatives.
But as Abbott complains about cash strains, he’s just also awarded a $224 million dollar contract for nearish-to-the-international-border (more on this later) wall construction. Hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts have already gone to contractors; this latest agreement is the largest one yet and goes to the company that not only has a history of shady dealings, but that built the notorious privately funded section of wall that’s been on the verge of collapse.
RELATED STORY: Engineers say privately funded border fence is on the verge of collapse
Fisher Sand & Gravel “drew national attention for constructing a private border fence in South Texas that was part of a fraudulent crowdfunding scheme called We Build the Wall,” Texas Observer reports. “The 3-mile steel fence that Fisher built prompted federal lawsuits and is reportedly at risk of collapsing into the Rio Grande.”
That privately funded wall wasn’t just a legal disaster for the likes of indicted-but-later-pardoned white nationalist creep Steve Bannon, it’s been an actual physical disaster. ProPublica and The Texas Tribune said in a 2020 that one engineer who reviewed reports on the thing “likened Fisher’s fence to a used Toyota Yaris.” Recall that the company’s president had called it “the ‘Lamborghini’ of border walls” on the Fox propaganda network, where he did lots of sucking up to the insurrectionist president. It was clear the company was rushing construction and cutting corners in order to build as much in time for his reelection campaign as possible because the wall has never actually been intended as some sort of immigration policy (which it’s clearly not), but rather a racist, political tool.
And a money-making venture for Fisher Sand & Gravel. Texas Observer reports the company will get nearly a quarter of a billion dollars to build just 9 miles of wall in Webb County, coming to $24 million per mile. “Contract records indicate that the planned wall segment will stretch south from the outskirts of Laredo through the small border towns of El Cenizo and El Bravo,” the report said. The tiny town of El Cenizo, I should mention, made national news in 2017 when it led the first lawsuit against Texas’ discriminatory “show me your papers” law.
Fisher Sand & Gravel has landed itself these lucrative contracts all thanks to corrupt dealings. The Army Corps of Engineers had initially rejected the company’s bid to be a federal contractor, pointing “to the company's lack of experience building border walls,” 60 Minutes reported in 2020. But both the insurrectionist president and the state’s senator, Republican Kevin Cramer, highly favored company. When the former found out Fisher wasn’t picked, he “exploded into a tirade,” the report said.
Sources in fact said that Department of Homeland Security officials “explained to the president that it was inappropriate for the president to influence the bidding process.” Hilarious, like that would ever stop him. Fisher Sand & Gravel got the $1.3 billion contract to build the wall that Mexico was supposed to pay for, reported at that time as the single largest agreement. Now it gets that distinction in Texas, too.
When it comes to what Fisher Sand & Gravel will build under contract with Texas, it won’t actually be at the international border, because that’s the federal government’s purview. So ongoing plans have involved state lands as well as trying to secure private lands from Texans. But reports say that process has dragged out, so not much building has actually been happening. “I believe we have about every landman available in South Texas working on this project,” Texas Facilities Commission Chair Steven Alvis said in the Texas Observer report. “If I could find some more, I’d do it.”
Great, great use of state resources here. Republicans like to push this racist trope about immigrants sucking up state resources, but it’s more than clear who the actual moochers are here.
Fisher Sand & Gravel, by the way, is under a settlement with the federal government and has to conduct regular inspections of its private wall disaster. “A $3 million bond also must be kept on the property for 15 years, or until it is transferred to the federal government, in case the structure falters,” Border Report said last year. Still, a pittance compared to the vast earnings it has made from these projects.
Happy New Year! Daily Kos’ Joan McCarter is on the show today to talk about the wild garbage fire that was the Republican speaker of the House vote. Kerry and Markos also break down what this onionskin-thin conservative majority can and cannot do in the coming year, as well as what the Democratic representatives can do to make Kevin McCarthy’s life just that much tougher.
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