Texas shipped its first busload of migrants to Washington on Wednesday as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to make President Biden and the nation’s capital feel some of the pain of the border crisis.
The group of about two dozen people was dropped just yards from the U.S. Capitol, and Mr. Abbott said more are on the way.
He also announced a deal with a Mexican governor to have Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas, step up its border security. In exchange, Mr. Abbott said, he will cancel some enhanced safety inspections that have crippled commercial traffic across the border.
The Republican governor said his moves are intended to expose Mr. Biden, who has fostered the most chaotic southern border situation the country has faced in decades.
“Texas isn’t going to tolerate it anymore,” Mr. Abbott declared at a press conference with Samuel Alejandro Garcia Sepulveda, governor of Nuevo Leon.
Mr. Garcia said he has agreed to have his police patrol the Rio Grande and man roadway checkpoints to protect his state’s 8½-mile boundary with Texas in exchange for ending the commercial checks.
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“We want to make sure Texas feels comfortable making business with Nuevo Leon,” he said.
Mr. Abbott has emerged as the most prominent foil to Mr. Biden on border matters, with his own border wall construction program and deployment of state police and the National Guard to arrest smugglers.
He stepped up those efforts last week after the Biden administration announced it would cancel the Title 42 border policy that allowed the Homeland Security Department to expel many illegal immigrants as part of the emergency response to the pandemic.
Title 42 is now slated to end on May 23. Homeland Security predicts a surge of illegal immigrants to reach as many as 540,000 a month. That is nearly the rate of Ukrainian refugees believed to be settling in Poland.
Without Title 42, the Biden administration expects to catch and release the border crossers, at a rate of more than 100,000 a month, into American communities. Texas expects to be particularly hard-hit by those releases.
Mr. Abbott directed state officials to try to round up some of those migrants and, if they are willing, to ship them to Washington.
“By busing migrants to Washington, D.C., the Biden administration will be able to more immediately meet the needs of the people they are allowing to cross our border,” the governor said in a statement. “Texas should not have to bear the burden of the Biden Administration’s failure to secure our border.”
The first two dozen people arrived Wednesday, and another busload is on its way. Mr. Abbott said he is also looking at flying some migrants to Washington.
The White House proclaimed itself unworried by the migrants’ arrival, saying they were caught, processed and released by Homeland Security and suggesting they wanted to come to the capital region anyway.
“So it’s nice the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination as they await their outcomes of their immigration proceedings,” press secretary Jen Psaki said.
Shipping migrants was the headline-grabber, but if Wednesday’s announcements are any gauge, the enhanced safety inspections may prove to have more teeth when it comes to getting results.
Texas officials say they always conducted safety checks on a random selection of commercial vehicles, but Mr. Abbott, as part of his Title 42 response, ordered full inspections. Within hours, the international bridges between Mexico and Texas began to clog up.
At the Columbia Solidarity Bridge, the border crossing between Texas and Nueva Leon, commercial traffic faced average wait times of 26 minutes. It reached a peak of 300 minutes after the new order for safety inspections, according to Customs and Border Protection, and traffic plummeted by 60%.
At El Paso’s Ysleta-Zaragoza International Bridge, wait times soared from an average of 52 minutes to a peak of 335 minutes, with a 50% drop in commercial traffic.
At the Pharr-Reynosa International Bridge, Mexican truckers became so incensed at the delays that they blocked the lanes altogether, forcing a complete shutdown of commercial traffic this week.
Border analysts said that was Mr. Abbott’s goal. Economic pain has prodded Mexico to act in the past and, if Nuevo Leon is an indication, it’s working again.
“Our 14-kilometer border with Texas will be continuously patrolled by our police,” Mr. Garcia said in his meeting with Mr. Abbott.
Mr. Abbott said Texas officials verified the checks and lifted the state’s enhanced inspections at the port. So far, he said, the plan seems to be working.
“The report I received last night … said they observed no activity crossing the river whatsoever during the time span they observed it,” the governor said.
Mr. Abbott said he is trying to strike similar agreements with other Mexican governors. Until then, he said, the enhanced inspections along the rest of the state’s border will continue.
The Texas governor’s inspections have drawn fire from the White House. Ms. Psaki said they were spawning supply chain problems, “raising prices for families in Texas and across the country.”
In Texas, Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, a Republican, demanded an end to the inspections, saying produce was being ruined.
“You cannot solve a border crisis by creating another crisis at the border,” Mr. Miller said.
He said Texas should use its resources fighting the Biden administration in court instead.
Mr. Abbott brushed aside Mr. Miller’s jabs on Wednesday.
“He had no clue what we were doing,” the governor said. “He was just completely uninformed.”
• Jeff Mordock contributed to this report.