Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants the illegal immigrants who are caught and released by federal agents into his state to be quickly shipped straight to Washington, seeking to bring the pain of border communities straight to the doorstep of the Biden administration.
The Republican governor said the transport would be “voluntary,” and it’s too early to guess how many migrants will be interested — or how much capacity Texas will have, given the tens of thousands of migrants expected to reach the state each week in the near future.
Mr. Abbott said his plan was made necessary by President Biden’s decision to end the pandemic border shutdown policy, known as Title 42, which analysts say will open floodgates for a record-breaking surge of illegal immigrants.
Mr. Abbott called that part of the Biden administration‘s “open-border policies” and said his state has to step in to do something.
“With the end of Title 42 expulsions looming next month, Texas will immediately begin taking unprecedented action to do what no state has done in American history to secure our border,” he said.
He signed a directive Wednesday to the Texas Division of Emergency Management ordering the procurement of buses, planes or other ways of “evacuating” migrants from the state. And he asked local officials to alert the state to where Homeland Security is dropping illegal immigrants off so the state can be on hand to offer them a ride.
Mr. Abbott also said the state Department of Public Safety is erecting boat blockades and putting up razor wire at low-water crossings to try to deter people from coming across the Rio Grande, which largely tracks the U.S.-Mexico boundary.
State troopers and the Texas National Guard will also be outfitted with riot gear to deal with potential violence from groups of migrants, the governor’s office said.
Under Title 42, in place since the start of the pandemic, illegal immigrants are deemed a vector for COVID-19, and can be immediately expelled without giving them a chance to make iffy asylum claims or other demands to be let in.
Under the Trump administration, perhaps 90% of illegal border jumpers were expelled under Title 42. The rate under the Biden administration is about 50% — and the number of people trying to cross has surged as more people are successful.
With Title 42 ending May 23, Homeland Security says it is bracing for as many as a half-million illegal immigrants a month. That would obliterate all previous records.
Immigrant-rights advocates say Title 42 has condemned legitimate asylum seekers to violence in Mexico when they are sent back across the line.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, says the pandemic has receded enough that illegal immigrants should be allowed to make asylum claims unfettered by COVID restrictions.
Immigration groups blasted Mr. Abbott‘s plan Wednesday.
The League of United Latin American Citizens said the governor is violating the Constitution by meddling in a national issue.
“It is mean-spirited to use refugees’ lives to manipulate public opinion,” said Domingo Garcia, LULAC’s national president.
Mr. Abbott, in addition to measures targeting illegal immigration, also said he would stiffen the state’s safety inspections for cross-border commercial vehicles. The governor acknowledged that might delay cargo coming across.
Todd Bensman, a Texas-based fellow at the Center for Immigration Studies, said that while Mr. Abbott didn’t cast the inspections as a threat to Mexico, officials below the border may take it that way — and it may prod Mexico to do more to stop the flow of illegal immigrants.
President Trump used similar economic threats to enlist Mexico to help solve the 2019 border surge, but the Biden administration backed away from those threats, Mr. Bensman said.