Speaking to a crowd of South Texans and sheriff’s deputies in Stetson hats, Governor Greg Abbott got his biggest cheer when he said the state would take up former President Donald Trump’s pet project: building border walls.
(CN) — Accusing the Biden administration of rolling out a red carpet for undocumented immigrants, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced Thursday the state will build barriers on the U.S.-Mexico border and has allocated $1 billion for border security.
At a “Border Security Summit” in Del Rio, Texas, the Republican governor said, “A border crisis is plaguing the farmers, the ranchers, the residents of the entire border region. Fences are being mowed down, you have livestock and crops that are being destroyed, you have homes that are being invaded and neighborhoods simply are not as safe as they used to be.”
Of the four U.S. states adjoining Mexico, Texas has the largest section of border, 1,254 miles, compared to the second most, Arizona’s 372.5 miles.
And Texas has seen the most border crossings this fiscal year, with the Border Patrol apprehending 491,939 immigrants in its Texas patrol sectors, 54.8% of the total across all its sectors.
According to Abbott, Border Patrol agents apprehended 17,000 people at the southwest border in April 2020, and this April the arrests jumped to more than 170,000.
“Last May about 23,000 people were apprehended, this May more than 180,000. It is out of control and a change is needed,” he said.
Abbott blamed the increased border crossings on the Biden administration’s suspension of the Remain in Mexico program. Started in January 2019 by former President Donald Trump, it required immigrants to stay in Mexico as their asylum cases were adjudicated.
Texas and Missouri sued the Biden administration in federal court in April for suspending the program. Biden terminated it with a June 1 memo, prompting the two states to seek an injunction claiming the move was unconstitutional.
Many of those turned back and forced to wait in Mexico took shelter in makeshift tent camps near the border where immigrant advocates say they became targets of extortion, kidnapping, robberies and assaults by drug cartels and even Mexican law enforcement.
Despite Abbott’s claim Biden has rolled out a red carpet for unauthorized immigrants, refugee advocates say Biden is continuing to inhumanely expel people to Mexican border cities where they are preyed on by extortionist criminal gangs and cartels.
Biden’s administration has expelled 527,000 immigrants so far this year under a Trump-era policy known as Title 42.
Under pressure from Trump, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention implemented Title 42 in March 2020 to purportedly protect Americans from Covid-19. It sends those expelled to Mexico regardless of what country they came from.
Due to a court order, children who enter the country alone are not subject to Title 42.
Scrambling to house more than 17,000 unaccompanied minors who entered the country in March, the Biden administration placed groups of them in a Dallas convention center and a coliseum in San Antonio, among other emergency shelters.
Citing anonymous whistleblowers, Abbott complained in April that staff at the San Antonio shelter had sexually abused some of the teens, they were being underfed and those who had contracted Covid-19 were not being separated from the others.
But Abbott has now made clear the state will have no role in sheltering unaccompanied youths.
He issued a disaster declaration May 31 ordering the state agency that oversees youth shelters to stop licensing any that house undocumented immigrants under contract with the federal government.
The declaration covers 34 counties on the Mexico border by which they can request reimbursement from the federal government for costs related to the disaster, Abbott says.
Texas officials have also directed landowners to a state-run website where they can document property damage caused by immigrants to seek federal reimbursement.
“This is the first time I’ve seen a gubernatorial disaster declaration made for such a cause,” Abbott said at Thursday’s summit. “Typically, it’s for things like hurricanes. This however is a disaster that we are dealing with on the border.”
Abbott also announced he had signed an interstate compact with Arizona’s Republican Governor Doug Ducey authorizing Arizona to send law enforcement officers, drones and helicopters to help Texas at the border.
“We’re calling on other states to send reinforcements… States across America come to Texas, help us solve this border crisis,” Abbott said.
Abbott has already deployed 1,000 Texas state troopers and hundreds of Texas National Guard soldiers to the area.
Since March 6, when the Texas Department of Public Safety launched the border-focused Operation Lone Star on orders from Abbott, the agency’s state troopers have apprehended more than 35,000 undocumented immigrants, seized over 10,000 pounds of illegal drugs and more than 100 firearms, according to Abbott.
To deal with an increase of inmates in the region’s county jails, Abbott’s disaster declaration calls for state agencies to work with county officials on setting up “alternative detention facilities” and hiring more jailers.
“This is a team effort because we don’t want just to arrest somebody to have them released. We want to arrest somebody to have them prosecuted, to be put in jail, to stay in jail, to create an environment where people will choose they don’t want to come across the border into the state of Texas anymore,” Abbott said.
Speaking to a crowd of locals and sheriff’s deputies in Stetson hats, Abbott got his biggest cheer when he said Texas would take up Trump’s pet project: building border walls.
“The ability to arrest will be enhanced by building border barriers. Border barriers will be built immediately,” Abbott said. “Anybody tries to modify or get through border barriers, that in itself is a crime for which they can be arrested. I will announce next week the plan for the state of Texas to begin building the border wall.”
The ACLU of Texas ripped Abbott’s initiatives. Its staff attorney Kate Huddleston said he is undermining the right to seek asylum by jailing immigrants fleeing danger in their home countries.
“Abbott’s proposed border wall will harm border communities and the environment. In this plan, Abbott is yet again scapegoating immigrants in an effort to distract from his own failures in governing and managing actual crises in Texas — like the historic winter storm that led to the deaths of more than 150 Texans,” Huddleston said.