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Texas governor targets migrants ahead of border influx

HOUSTON — Governor Greg Abbott said Wednesday that Texas would set up checkpoints to stop commercial vehicles from Mexico and charter buses to bring migrants released by federal agents north to Washington, ushering in a new phase in an increasingly acute political confrontation over immigration. Politics.

The standoff over border policy has been politically advantageous for the governor in his re-election campaign, his political aides said, and reflects genuine concern among Texas officials and voters that no one has done enough to cope with the increasing number of encounters with migrants. At the border.

The twin imperatives – security and political – were on display at a press conference as Mr Abbott lashed out at the Biden administration and promised that the first migrants who would agree to be bussed from Texas to Washington would be dropped on the doorstep of federal legislators.

“The first location” of filing, he said, “will be the steps of the United States Capitol.”

Since President Biden took office, Mr. Abbott, a Republican who is seeking his third term in November, has sought ways to increase Texas law enforcement involvement along the border, engaging in a broad expansion of state efforts to apprehend and, in some cases, arrest migrants.

Mr. Abbott’s announcement on Wednesday took those efforts further and, he said, was only part of the state’s response to a change in federal policy that is expected to lead to an increase in the number migrants arriving at the border.

National Guard troops, he said, would begin “mass migration rehearsals” this week, including with riot gear, to prepare for an influx of the type that overwhelmed officials in Del Rio last fall. Troops, along with state police, would also create “boat blockades” in areas of the Rio Grande, officials said.

The Texas moves come as the Biden administration prepares to end a Trump-era policy initiated during the coronavirus pandemic in which migrants were turned away at the border under a restraining order. public health emergency known as Title 42. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the order would be lifted in late May.

The order, which allows federal immigration officials to turn back migrants, including those seeking asylum, has been used about 1.7 million times to deport migrants in the past two years.

Federal officials expect the lifting of the order to lead to the daily arrival of thousands of migrants at the southern border, which has already seen a significant increase in illegal crossings.

While the federal government enforces immigration law, Abbott has found ways to involve the state in immigration matters. Last year, he ordered state police to launch an unusual program to arrest migrants caught on private property with a misdemeanor trespassing offense. Thousands have been detained, with months of waiting for court hearings.

The checkpoints follow a similar pattern, making new use of a state law enforcement function — commercial vehicle safety inspections — to stop those arriving from Mexico. It was not immediately clear when the checkpoints would be established or how many would be involved.

“This will significantly slow down traffic from Mexico to Texas,” Abbott said.

Officials said those who volunteered to be bused to Washington by the state would be migrants who had been released from federal custody in the United States.

“They dumped large numbers of migrants in towns along the border,” he said of the federal government. Officials in those cities, he added, have already placed migrants on buses bound for San Antonio.

“So I said I had a better idea: Instead of taking these people by bus to San Antonio, let’s continue the trip to Washington, DC,” Abbott said.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate, was unimpressed.

“If Abbott had focused on solutions rather than stunts, then Texas could have made real progress on this problem over the past seven years.”

Officials offered few details about how their plan would work. Asked at the press conference how many buses would be used, Texas Emergency Management Division Chief W. Nim Kidd could not say. “We will use as many buses as necessary,” Mr Kidd said.

A department spokesperson said the number of buses needed would depend on requests from local officials, and migrants could be taken to other areas outside of Texas, not just Washington.

The effort echoed a bill introduced last year by Sen. Ted Cruz, a Republican, to send migrants arriving in southern Texas to Democratic states in the northeast and California.

Representative Sylvia Garcia, a Democrat from Houston, called Mr Abbott’s announcement “shameful”.

“These are families fleeing desperate poverty, ruthless violence and life-threatening situations,” she said. “They could make a big contribution to Texas if they were welcomed, like Texans are supposed to be.”

Mr. Abbott has also built miles of fences and other barriers and deployed thousands of National Guard personnel along the border, a mission expected to cost $2 billion a year. Texas military department leaders said this week that the effort, which began last year, had been more expensive than expected and that they would need an additional $500 million to make it work.

But the governor has come under pressure from some conservatives to go further and declare an ‘invasion’ under a clause in the US Constitution that supporters say would give Texas officials the power to turn back migrants. arriving at the border.

Mr Abbott denied plans to do so when asked at the press conference, but added that “there will be further announcements next week”.

“Texas is evaluating all the tools that we can possibly use,” he said.


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