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Texas governor calls on Biden to squelch ‘invasion’ of migrants

Governor Greg Abbott claims the president has caused a crisis for the Lone Star State by gutting Trump-era policies that dropped illegal immigration to historic lows.

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.

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Five Texas sheriffs told the state senators of their counties’ problems with fentanyl they say cartels are smuggling in vehicles through ports of entry.

“We have seized enough fentanyl in the last year in Tarrant County to kill all its 2.1 million citizens,” said Sheriff Bill Waybourn. “In the last six weeks we have seized over 1 million deadly doses of fentanyl. We’ve lost 124 citizens to fentanyl poisoning this year.”

Waybourn said he struggled to understand why cartels would “kill their clients” this way. But his department’s intelligence team spoke to a cartel member who framed it as a desirable byproduct of their drug trade.

“They responded to us that it’s OK. ‘In fact, whatever kills the gringo is good with us,’” Waybourn said.

“And our team explained to them, ‘Well it’s indiscriminate. It’s hitting the Asian community … the Hispanic community…the African American community.’ And the cartel member, the Sinaloa Cartel member says, ‘Everything north of the border is a gringo.’ And it is a weapon. They don’t care that they’re trying to kill us,” the sheriff added.

Given the testimony of Waybourn and other sheriffs, it appears smugglers are bringing in huge amounts of fentanyl into Texas from Mexico despite Operation Lone Star’s and the Border Patrol’s interdiction efforts.

Abbott noted Texas has allocated more than $4 billion in taxpayer dollars to his border security initiatives in a letter Monday to county officials asking them to lobby Congress to reimburse the state and referencing the state's invasion repulsion footing.

State Senator Brian Birdwell, a Waco Republican, disabled Army veteran and chair of the border security committee, on Tuesday questioned Sarah Hicks, Abbott’s budget director, about the implications of Abbott’s invocation of the Constitution’s invasion clause.

“Does the governor intend to engage in combat operations?” he asked.

Hicks said Abbott was merely reiterating language he used in an executive order he issued in July, seemingly trying to stake out legal cover for tasking Texas state police and soldiers with apprehending immigrants who enter the state without papers and returning them to the border.

Citing the Supreme Court’s 2012 ruling in Arizona v. United States, some legal experts say Texas is encroaching on the federal government’s sole authority to enforce immigration laws.

In disregard of the Department of Homeland Security’s limited detention capacity for immigrants, Abbott called on the Biden administration Wednesday to “aggressively prosecute the federal crimes of illegal entry and illegal reentry,” which carry maximum penalties of six months and two years in federal prison, respectively, plus fines.

The administration of Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, provoked international outrage by prosecuting illegal entry offenses in 2017 and 2018 under a “zero-tolerance policy” designed to deter emigrants from coming to the U.S., resulting in the separation of parents from their children as young as 10 months old.

Abbott also advised Biden to reinstate Trump’s Migrant Protection Protocols, better known as Remain in Mexico, a policy that forced some asylum seekers to wait in Mexico for adjudication of their cases.

“Before you took office, the United States enjoyed some of the lowest illegal-immigration figures it had seen in decades. Your administration gutted the policies that yielded those low numbers,” Abbott wrote.

“You must reinstate the policies that you eliminated, or craft and implement new policies, in order to fulfill your constitutional duty to enforce federal immigration laws and protect the States against invasion,” he continued.

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