WESLACO, Texas (Nexstar) — Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas will start organizing charter buses to transport migrants — who have crossed the border and agree to it — all the way to the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
“As opposed to busing these people to San Antonio. Let’s continue the ride all the way to Washington, D.C.,” Abbott said at a Wednesday press conference.
Abbott directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to oversee the effort to transport migrants from Texas to Washington, D.C., which the agency’s head said would begin as early as Thursday. He shared this plan Wednesday afternoon as part of two new actions that he said would counter the impacts of the Biden administration ending the Title 42 Order.
In a press release Wednesday afternoon, Abbott clarified, “to board a bus or flight, migrants must volunteer to be transported and show documentation from DHS.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it will lift the Title 42 Order on May 23. The Trump administration re-enacted this public health law in March 2020 as part of its effort to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading across international borders between Mexico, Canada and the United States.
For the last two years, the U.S. sent back migrants and asylum-seekers who tried to cross land borders citing the threat to public health.
“After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” a statement from the CDC read.
The governor decried the CDC’s decision when it came to light on April 1. In a statement released that day, Abbott said, “Instead of listening to the millions of Americans that his administration has endangered—and instead of enforcing immigration laws passed by Congress—President Biden has chosen to jeopardize the safety and security of those very Americans he swore to protect and defend by ending Title 42 expulsions.”
Abbott said he’s also directing the Texas Department of Public Safety to begin conducting “enhanced safety inspections” of every commercial vehicle that crosses into the state from Mexico. He warned that this will “dramatically slow traffic” in areas near the border. DPS Director Steve McCraw said troopers will identify inspection points and will start implementing this plan Thursday.
When asked whether these inspections are constitutional, Abbott argued they’re legal, but said he anticipates lawsuits to be filed.
“They [DPS] will conduct them in a way that will ensure that there will be no constitutional issues that can validly be raised against it. Of course, everyone always files a lawsuit. We wouldn’t be surprised by a lawsuit,” he said.
Additionally, the Texas Military Department announced it will start conducting what it’s calling “mass migration rehearsals.” Those include placing a boat blockade on the Rio Grande River, razor wire along the river’s edge and equipping state troopers and National Guard members with riot gear.
At the news conference, Abbott and the various state agency leaders involved in these efforts did not disclose what these plans will cost to implement. As for the charter buses, the governor said it “requires no additional funding right now.”
As the governor is up for re-election in November, some were quick to take to social media, calling these plans a “political stunt.” His Democratic challenger, former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke sent KXAN the following statement in response:
“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.
A security expert told BorderReport that border agencies will need more resources once migrants are no longer expelled on public health grounds next month. However, immigration advocates celebrated the decision because they argued Title 42 ended up being used to deprive asylum-seekers and economic migrants of due process.
Doris Meissner, a senior fellow at the Migration Policy Institute, said this will only add to the backlog of asylum cases waiting to be processed.
“It can take years, an average four to five years for a claim to be heard. So that is a dysfunctional system,” she said. “Both from the standpoint of people who are eligible, who should get an approval if they’re eligible. And also for those who are not eligible, who should have a chance to have their case heard, but then be removed if they’re denied.”
In late March, the Biden administration unveiled plans intended to speed up the time it takes to decide whether immigrants will be deported or be allowed to stay in the U.S.
The rules allow asylum officers to grant or deny claims, an authority that has been limited to immigration judges for migrants arriving at southern border.
Congress also approved $1.45 billion for southern border response in its omnibus bill passed last month.
“That [funding allocation] will take some time. And that is a recognition that you can’t just staff the border, you have to be staffing these other processes in order for this situation to get straightened out,” Meissner said.