HOUSTON (CN) — Accusing the Biden administration of violating the Constitution by failing to protect Texas from an invasion by Mexican drug cartels and undocumented immigrants, Governor Greg Abbott on Wednesday said the state will escalate its efforts to turn back those who enter illegally.
Abbott, a Republican, has laid the blame for record numbers of Border Patrol apprehensions of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border in the last two fiscal years on what he calls President Joe Biden’s lax policies.
But nearly two years into Biden’s tenure, a Trump-era pandemic-related health policy federal agents have used more than 1 million times to expel immigrants to Mexico or their home countries without giving them a chance to apply for asylum has remained in place.
The policy, known as Title 42, is set to be discontinued Dec. 21 after U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan on Tuesday blocked it with an injunction. But at the Biden administration’s request he stayed his order for five weeks.
The ruling could cause overcrowding of detainees at Border Patrol lockups and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention centers, experts say.
It’s a numbers problem for the administration: Congress has provided ICE with funding for 34,000 detention beds. Yet last month, for instance, Border Patrol agents apprehended more than 230,000 immigrants at the southwest border.
In requesting a delay to ending Title 42 expulsions, the government said it would need to transfer resources and work with nongovernmental organizations and state governments to prepare for an expected increase in asylum seekers entering the country.
Abbott’s office did not respond Wednesday to an email asking if Texas will work with the feds to help with new arrivals.
Instead, he published an open letter to Biden claiming that by refusing to enforce immigration laws passed by Congress, the president is derelict in upholding a constitutional duty to states “that the federal government ‘shall protect each of them against Invasion." The governor also invoked another section of the Constitution he says gives Texas the right to protect its territory against an invasion by undocumented immigrants and Mexican drug cartels.
“Ranches are being ripped apart, and homes are vulnerable to intrusion,” Abbott wrote. “Our border communities are regularly disrupted by human traffickers and bailouts. Deadly fentanyl is crossing the porous border to such a degree that it is now the leading cause of death for citizens between the ages of 18 and 45.”
But a Border Patrol officer’s testimony before a Texas Senate committee Tuesday undercut the governor’s escalating rhetoric that the Biden administration has completely abandoned border security in Texas.
Carl Landrum, chief patrol agent of the Border Patrol’s Laredo sector, one of five BP sectors in Texas, told the state Senate Border Security Committee that Texas local prosecutors have charged 196 people with human trafficking in cases referred to them by his agents, thanks to a state law passed in 2021.
Those cases “would probably not have been prosecuted otherwise without the state of Texas passing that law last session,” Landrum said.
Due to the success of that cooperation, Landrum urged the Legislature to amend a section of the Texas Penal Code that forces Border Patrol agents to hand over people they catch committing other state felonies to a Texas law enforcement officer, in all areas other than ports of entry, depriving them of authority to request a DA to accept charges against the offenders.
The three members of the Texas Senate committee expressed support for Abbott’s Operation Lone Star – his deployment, starting in March 2021, of thousands of Texas National Guard troops and Texas state police to the border, where Abbott says they have arrested more than 21,000 immigrants on criminal charges – mostly trespassing – repelled another 30,000 from entering Texas and seized 353 million doses of fentanyl.