WESLACO, Texas — Gov. Greg Abbott announced a new plan Wednesday to bus migrants crossing the Texas border and take them all the way to Washington D.C, specifically to the steps of the U.S. Capitol. It was part of a slew of new executive orders the governor issued to address problems at the border.
Abbott's orders come in response to the Biden administration eliminating Title 42, the public health policy the Trump administration started during the COVID-19 pandemic. It allows the government to quickly expel migrants and asylum seekers who come to the U.S. from countries where an infectious disease -- like COVID-19 -- is present.
A statement from the White House on Thursday said border enforcement is up to the federal government, not state governments.
“Enforcement of our country’s immigration laws lies with the federal government not a state. The Title 42 public health order will continue to be enforced till May 23rd," the White House spokesperson said. "After that, ordinary immigration processing will resume. Migrants who attempt to enter the country unlawfully will be placed in immigration proceedings."
The statement said after Title 42 ends, there should be pathways for those who want to claim asylum to be able to do so.
"Asylum and other legal migration pathways should remain available to those seeking protection but those who don’t qualify will be promptly removed to their countries of origin," the statement said.
Abbott said the federal government expects up to 18,000 migrants a day will cross the southern border. That would total up to 540,000 crossings each month.
"We have more people who will potentially be crossing our border illegally by the end of this year than live in Los Angeles, America's second largest city," Abbott said.
He added the Biden administration is already busing migrants to Texas cities up and down the border that don't have the resources to deal with the problem.
"They themselves have been putting these migrants on buses to San Antonio," Abbott said. "So I said I've got a better idea. As opposed to busing these people to San Antonio, let's continue the ride all the way to Washington, D.C."
Abbott also announced three other orders to tackle the problems at the border:
- Enhanced safety inspections for all vehicles entering Texas from Mexico
- Boat blockades along certain stretches of the Rio Grande River
- Razor wire in low water crossings in high traffic areas
The governor acknowledged stopping so many more vehicles at the border would have a significant negative impact on traffic, but he said it was necessary to curb the flow of unplanned immigration. That directive took effect Wednesday afternoon.
The Texas National Guard will also be mobilized as part of this stage in Abbott's plans. Starting Thursday, they will begin mass migration rehearsals as state officials expect a large influx of people crossing the border. Abbott said they will be provided with riot gear to deter violence.
No plan yet for Texas-led deportations
Abbott stopped short of saying that Texas would deport migrants, a controversial step that many ex-Trump officials had been pushing for him to do.
Ahead of Abbott's news conference, State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, a Democratic member of the Senate Committee on Border Security, said the governor would announce a plan to arrest and detain migrants and then deport them. Despite being a Democrat, Hinojosa was supportive of that plan.
"The federal government is not doing enough, not putting enough resources on the border to be able to deal with all the migrants coming across," Hinojosa said. "So, we have a responsibility to the citizens of the State of Texas to be able to provide security as necessary when laws are broken."
But again, Abbott stopped short of doing that on Wednesday. He did say the moves he made were just the first stage of a two-stage plan. The governor will release more details about the second stage next week.
Reached again after the governor's news conference, Hinojosa said he was surprised the governor went a different direction. He said the busing of migrants to Washington could be difficult because those migrants must still pass through Border Patrol checkpoints -- checkpoints run by the federal government.
Hinojosa expects the immigration problem will overwhelm Border Patrol and that DPS and the Texas National Guard will have to fill in the gaps. He also believes the federal government needs to eventually reimburse Texas for the billions of dollars it has spent on border security.
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