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Records show Texans have spent more than $20 million to bus migrants out of state

The cost to Texans was around $12 million in August. Critics say the plan encourages more immigration by providing free bus travel.

DALLAS — New records WFAA obtained through an open records request show Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to bus migrants out of the state has cost Texans more than $20 million, as of October.

Abbott began the program in April, sending migrants seeking asylum to New York City, Chicago and Washington D.C. 

In a press release Friday, Abbott’s office said the buses have transported 8,300 migrants to D.C., over 3,500 to New York City and more than 1,100 migrants to Chicago. The costs average out to about $1,600 per person.

“It was all a political campaign, propaganda, a stunt by Governor Abbott,” Domingo Garcia, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) said.

Garcia was in D.C. when one of the buses from Texas arrived.

“They dropped them off at six o’clock in the morning, no food, no water, no directions, literally just dumped in front of the vice president’s house on the curb,” he said.

In August, the Texas Department of Emergency Management reported the busses had cost Texas $12 million. The new records from TDEM show that cost nearly doubled to $20.14 million by October.

Texas Democrats have tried to make the focus of the midterms on the Uvalde mass shooting where 19 teachers and two students were killed, the deadly winter freeze and abortion rights, but Abbott has worked to keep focus on immigration.

“Instead of going for schools, scholarships, things that will improve the lives of Texans, here’s the governor of Texas spending $20 million for a political stunt, using immigrants as political piñatas,” Garcia said.

Abbott told Inside Texas Politics the bussing is saving money by reducing the cost to other social programs.

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“You’d have to look in each subcomponent, whether it be healthcare, education, welfare, all different types of subsectors,” he said. “That’s why there’s no one location you can go to to find that number.”

But McAllen’s mayor, Javier Villalobos, told Inside Texas Politics that they don’t pay anything.

“We have absolutely $0 for that,” he said. “We don’t deal with that. That’s a federal issue.”

During the only gubernatorial debate, Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke blamed Abbott for not seeking real solutions.

“We were able to make El Paso one of the safest cities in the United States of America. It’s because we were looking at solutions instead of these stunts,” O’Rourke said. “I just want to remind everyone, this guy’s been governor for 8 years and this is where we are today.”

Abbott’s office didn’t answer an emailed question asking if he’d cap the buses at any dollar amount but in a statement said, “Until President Biden does his job and secures the border, Texas will continue busing migrants to self-declared sanctuary cities.”

Garcia said the immigration crisis requires a diplomatic solution and called the buses a waste of money.

“I don’t think Governor Abbott’s campaign has done anything significant except help immigrants get to their destination anyway,” he said. “In an essence, Governor Abbott is almost encouraging them to come.”

In two days, voters will decide how much immigration matters in the sea of issues facing the state and if O’Rourke or Abbott would be better to tackle it.

“If you see those commercials like, 'build the wall, deport them all,' it plays to fear and unfortunately, fear does get votes,” Garcia said.

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