AUSTIN, Texas (CN) — At a press conference in southeast Texas, Governor Greg Abbott announced Wednesday that the state will soon begin busing migrants released by the Department of Homeland Security to the nation's capital.
The two-term Republican governor said in response to the Biden administration’s plan to end Title 42, a pandemic-era order that expelled undocumented migrants, the state will be taking “unprecedented action… to secure the state.”
Abbott said that the new plans will be added to "Operation Lone Star," an order he signed last March directing 10,000 National Guard troops and hundreds of Texas Department of Public Safety police to the U.S.-Mexico border. Adding on to this directive, the governor introduced what he called a “zero-tolerance policy for unsafe vehicles smuggling migrants across the border.”
The policy, effective immediately, directs DPS officers to conduct enhanced safety inspections of vehicles as they are crossing into the state. Officers are directed to ensure vehicles passing into the state are safe to be on Texas roads. Abbott acknowledged that the policy will increase traffic and wait times for people crossing the border.
“It is a byproduct of cartels crossing the border from Mexico into Texas,” said Abbott.
Continuing, Abbott said that the state will be providing charter busses to transport migrants over 1,500 miles to Washington, D.C.
“We are sending them to the United States Capitol where the Biden Administration will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border,” said Abbott.
In his letter directing the transportation of migrants to D.C., Abbott left open the possibility for people to be transported to other locations in the country.
In addition to these new directives, the state will also be deploying razor wire along water crossings and blockades at points of entry. The state will also begin mass migration rehearsals, in the instance of an increase in border crossings. Abbott said more changes to the state’s approach to the border will be released in the coming week.
Abbott placed blame on President Joe Biden, saying that because of the administration's plan to end Title 42, more migrants will be attracted into crossing into the United States.
At the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic in March of 2020, former President Donald Trump enacted Title 42, which authorized the deportation of undocumented migrants from the U.S. to control the spread of Covid-19. At the press conference, Abbott slammed President Biden, accusing him of not securing the border and forcing the state of Texas to do the federal government’s job.
Fernando Garcia is the founder and executive director of the Border Network for Human Rights, an immigration and human rights advocacy organization based in El Paso. Reacting to the governor’s announcement, Garcia called it deplorable and politically motivated.
“It is unfortunate that the governor continues to promote an anti-immigrant and anti-asylum agenda as a part of his political strategy in Texas,” Garcia said in an interview. “It is wrong, it is racist and it represents a white supremacist approach in the state.”
Garcia believes that the actions Abbott has taken are illegal because Abbott nor the state are allowed to enforce federal immigration law. This view is one many opponents of the governor's actions believe. The same argument was made by immigration advocacy groups in a federal lawsuit filed in August 2021, challenging an executive order made by the governor that restricted the transportation of migrants.
The plaintiffs argued that the order violates the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution by attempting to regulate the movement of migrants, a job of the federal government. An injunction has been issued to block enforcement.
Similar challenges could be in store for the state, a possibility Garcia and Abbott forsee. During the press conference, the governor said he would not be surprised by a lawsuit.
Governor Abbott has, since the beginning of President Biden’s term, accused the federal government of pursuing “open-border policies” and has repeatedly, through Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, sued the administration to keep Trump-era policies on the book. In addition, Republicans in the state have depicted the border region as an area in crisis with crime and drugs surging along with asylum seekers arriving at the border.
“What they are saying is not true,” said Garcia. “It is false… in Texas, more than anywhere else on the southern border, it is immigrant families, workers, people looking for asylum and children who are crossing.”
The governor’s action did receive support from Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz. The conservative firebrand took to Twitter to call the transportation of migrants to Washington an “excellent idea,” and touted legislation he filed to similarly have migrants sent to states such as Massachusetts, New York, California and Delaware.
President Biden has yet to respond to Governor Abbott’s actions.