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Texas to Begin Busing Illegal Immigrants to Washington, D.C.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced that the state will respond to “unprecedented” illegal immigration by implementing additional inspections of vehicles crossing the border and will transport migrants directly to D.C.

(TNS) — Texas will begin busing migrants to the steps of the U.S. Capitol and inspecting vehicles driven in from Mexico, Gov. Greg Abbott announced on Wednesday in what he called an “unprecedented” response to illegal immigration.

Details of the plan, such as the cost and the logistics, are thin.

Abbott acknowledged the additional inspections – meant to root out smugglers bringing drugs, immigrants and other “illegal cargo” through the international points of entry – will “dramatically slow” traffic from Mexico, which is the state’s largest trading partner.

State officials also said they will charter “as many buses as we need” to transport migrants the nearly 28 hours from the border to Washington, D.C. Texas also will offer flights to migrants willing to leave the state, the governor said.

Abbott, a Republican who is seeking re-election this year and has made border security the top issue of his campaign, said the federal government already provides migrants with transportation to San Antonio, Texas.

“Let’s continue the ride all the way to Washington, D.C.,” he said at a press conference in Weslaco in the Rio Grande Valley.

For several days, Abbott has been saying that the state anticipates a huge surge in migrants next month, when the federal government lifts a public-health order known as Title 42 that has been used to quickly expel migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The latest measures escalate Abbott’s clash with President Joe Biden over how to handle illegal immigration. Already, Abbott has sent thousands of state police and Texas National Guard soldiers to the border to arrest migrants on trespassing charges. The governor also has committed $1 billion to erecting a barrier along the state’s border with Mexico after Biden issued an order to discontinue construction of a wall begun by former President Donald Trump.

Those actions have drawn criticism from civil rights groups and Democrats, who complain that migrants are being left in jail without access to lawyers for long stretches, and even complaints by some Guard soldiers that their conditions were poor and the mission had little purpose.

Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic opponent in this year’s race for governor, belittled the incumbent’s latest moves as “stunts.”

“If Abbott focused on solutions instead of stunts, then Texas could have made some real progress on this issue over the last seven years,” O’Rourke said in a written statement.

‘Inanimate Objects’


Denise Gilman, co-director of the immigration clinic at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, said the busing proposal disrespects people coming to the U.S. in search of protection.

“It treats them as inanimate objects to be moved around and used for political points,” she said.

There are also serious legal questions, Gilman said. While Abbott called the initiative voluntary, if any migrants are forced to or coerced to travel it could be a violation of their rights and trigger lawsuits, she said.

Abbott, though, defended his actions. And he warned of a mass influx of migrants because of what he termed misguided Biden policies.

“The Biden administration’s open-border policies have paved the way for dangerous cartels and deadly drugs to pour into the United States, and this crisis will only be made worse by ending Title 42 expulsions,” the governor warned.

For the current two-year state budget cycle, Texas appears to have already committed nearly $4 billion for erecting the border barrier, mobilizing thousands of Guard troops and state police officers to the region, and creating detention facilities and court-system capacity for prosecuting migrants charged with trespassing and other state offenses.

The potential effects of Abbott’s latest moves are unclear. On Wednesday, he said the “enhanced safety inspections” of vehicles would help Texas nab smugglers of migrants and the synthetic opioid fentanyl.

Though Abbott didn’t specify whether the Department of Public Safety would be stopping all traffic at the border bridges or just commercial vehicles, Abbott spokeswoman Nan Tolson confirmed the effort would be limited to commercial vehicles.

In Laredo, the busiest land port on the Texas border, about 2.4 million trucks crossed in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to data kept by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation. At the five largest crossing points in the Rio Grande Valley, a cumulative total of more than a million trucks passed in 2019. In Eagle Pass, about 180,000 trucks passed in 2019.

In 2021, truck traffic increased to 2.6 million in Laredo, 1.1 million in the Rio Grande Valley and 200,000 in Eagle Pass.

Free Transport 'Voluntary’


On the busing of migrants to Washington, Abbott said Texas emergency management officials will begin chartering the vehicles immediately.

Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, when asked how many buses would be chartered, said the state has procured as many as 900 in past natural disaster responses, such as to Category 5 hurricanes.

The buses will “send these illegal immigrants who’ve been dropped off by the Biden administration to Washington, D.C. We are sending them to the U.S. Capitol,” Abbott said.

In a letter asking Kidd to coordinate the effort, Abbott said the program will be voluntary. It will offer transportation “to Washington, D.C. and other locations outside the State of Texas” to migrants whom the U.S. Department of Homeland Security releases from custody in Texas cities, he said.

“Mayors and county judges should promptly notify TDEM of any DHS drop-offs that may necessitate dispatching a bus, a plane, or some other means of evacuating such migrants from our State,” Abbott wrote.

Vehicle inspections and the offers of free transportation will be supplemented by “mass migration rehearsals” by the state’s National Guard, Abbott said. The rehearsals will include boat blockades, ship container blockades and erection of razor wire at low water crossings and high traffic areas, said the governor and Maj. Gen. Thomas M. Suelzer, the state’s adjutant general whom Abbott recently appointed.

Abbott said the National Guard would begin preparation Thursday. Certain Guard soldiers and state police officers patrolling the border region will be equipped with gear to combat potential violence, the governor also said.

“All troopers and specially trained National Guard will be equipped with riot gear in case of potential caravan violence,” he said.

The three actions constitute Texas’ first response to the migrant surge anticipated after the Biden administration lifts a Title 42 order imposed by Trump after the outbreak of coronavirus, Abbott said.

“Texas will continue to evaluate threats that are posed by the [Biden] administration’s open border policies and these unprecedented illegal border crossings,” he said.

Other stages will be announced next week, Abbott said as he concluded the news conference.


©2022 The Dallas Morning News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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