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Governor Greg Abbott orders Texas to inspect vehicles at the border and charter buses to ship migrants to DC

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AUSTIN — Texas will begin busing migrants to the steps of the U.S. Capitol and screening vehicles arriving from Mexico, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday in what he called an “unprecedented” response to the ‘illegal immigration.

Plan details, such as cost and logistics, are slim.

Abbott acknowledged that the additional inspections – intended to weed out smugglers bringing drugs, immigrants and other “illegal cargo” through international ports of entry – will “significantly slow down” traffic from Mexico, which is the the state’s largest trading partner.

State officials also said they would charter “as many buses as needed” to transport migrants for nearly 28 hours between the border and Washington, D.C. Texas will also offer flights for migrants wishing to leave the state, said the governor.

Abbott, a Republican who is seeking re-election this year and has made border security his campaign priority, said the federal government is already providing transportation for migrants to San Antonio.

“Let’s continue the journey to Washington, DC,” he told a news conference in Weslaco in the Rio Grande Valley.

For several days, Abbott has been saying the state is anticipating a huge surge in migrant numbers next month, when the federal government lifts a public health order known as Title 42 that was used to quickly deport migrants to the US-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 troops to the border to arrest migrants accused of trespassing. The governor also committed $1 billion to erect a barrier along the state’s border with Mexico after Biden issued an order to halt construction of a wall started by former President Donald Trump.

These actions have drawn criticism from civil rights groups and Democrats, who complain that migrants are left in jail without access to lawyers for long periods of time, and even complaints from some Guard soldiers. that their conditions were bad and that the mission had no purpose.

Beto O’Rourke, Abbott’s Democratic opponent in this year’s gubernatorial race, called the incumbent’s latest moves “stunts.”

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

‘Inanimate Objects’

Denise Gilman, co-director of the University of Texas Immigration Clinic at Austin Law School, said the bus proposal disrespects people coming to the United States seeking protection.

“He treats them like inanimate objects to be moved around and used for political purposes,” she said.

There are also serious legal issues, Gilman said. Although Abbott called the initiative voluntary, if migrants are forced or coerced into traveling, it could violate their rights and trigger legal action, she said.

Abbott, however, defended his actions. And he warned of a massive influx of migrants due to what he called Biden’s misguided policies.

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

Immigration

Is the end near for Title 42, the pandemic-related ordinance that is rapidly deporting many migrants?

Pressure is mounting to end the pandemic-related health order that has been used more than 1.7 million times to rapidly deport migrants at the US-Mexico border. Immigration advocates, medical groups and prominent congressional Democrats are among those pushing the Biden administration to lift the public health order known as Title 42. They say its use won’t stop. applies only to migrants and not to other travelers and puts migrants at risk through rapid deportations to dangerous places. border towns.

For the state’s current two-year budget cycle, Texas appears to have already committed nearly $4 billion to erecting the border fence, mobilizing thousands of Guard troops and state police officers into the region and create detention centers and judicial capacities to prosecute migrants. charged with trespassing and other state offenses.

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

Although Abbott did not say whether the Department of Public Safety would stop all traffic at border bridges or just commercial vehicles, Abbott spokeswoman Nan Tolson confirmed the effort would be limited to vehicles. utilities.

At Laredo, the busiest land port on the Texas border, about 2.4 million trucks passed through in the pre-pandemic year of 2019, according to data kept by the U.S. Bureau of Transportation. At the five largest crossings in the Rio Grande Valley, a cumulative total of more than one million trucks passed in 2019. At Eagle Pass, approximately 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 ‘voluntary’ transportation

Regarding the bus transport of migrants to Washington, Abbott said Texas emergency management officials would begin chartering the vehicles immediately.

When asked how many buses would be chartered, Nim Kidd, head of the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said the state had purchased as many as 900 in previous natural disaster responses, such as Category 5 hurricanes.

The buses “will send these illegal immigrants who were dropped off by the Biden administration to Washington, DC. We send them to the US Capitol,” Abbott said.

In a letter asking Kidd to coordinate the effort, Abbott said the program would be voluntary. It will provide transportation “to Washington, D.C. and other locations outside of the state of Texas” for migrants the US Department of Homeland Security releases from custody in Texas cities, he said. declared.

“Mayors and county judges should promptly notify TDEM of any DHS filings that may require dispatching a bus, plane, or other means to evacuate these migrants from our state,” Abbott wrote.

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

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

“All soldiers and the specially trained National Guard will be equipped with riot gear in case of potential violence from the caravans,” he said.

The three actions are Texas’ first response to the expected influx of migrants after the Biden administration lifted a Title 42 order imposed by Trump following the coronavirus outbreak, Abbott said.

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

Further steps will be announced next week, Abbott said as he concluded the press conference.

Dallas writer Dianne Solis contributed to this report.

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