DALLAS — Governor Greg Abbott says the federal government refuses to secure the national border, so he vows that Texas will.
Abbott unveiled a new border security plan at a news conference in Weslaco on Wednesday.
A main pillar of his plan calls for Texas to charter hundreds of buses and send migrants to Washington, D.C.
He said of the federal government, “They themselves have been putting these migrants on buses to San Antonio so I said, I’ve got a better idea. As opposed to bussing these people to San Antonio, let’s just continue the ride all the way to Washington, DC.”
“The first location will be the steps of the United States Capitol,” he added.
But at the event announcing the plan, Abbott left out the fact that migrants will be put on DC-bound buses only if they volunteer to go - something many charities and non-profits operating along the border already offer.
He also didn’t explain that the migrants who would qualify for the voluntary busing program have already been processed by the federal government and approved to remain in the country.
“It would have to be voluntary to pass constitutional muster,” said immigration attorney Eric Cedillo.
“We’re talking about people again who are legally here in the U.S., have every right to be here. They have been paroled by the federal government, so that’s a concern," Cedillo said.
Abbott also ordered state troopers to inspect every commercial vehicle that enters the state at the international border and instructed the national guard to begin rehearsing military maneuvers – like building blockades across the Rio Grande or quickly putting up a razor wire fence to respond to a surge.
Title 42 – a federal health policy enacted early in the COVID pandemic to prevent people from entering the U.S. – will expire in May.
The result could be a spike in the number of people trying to enter at the border.
Spring also typically brings an annual increase in migrants attempting to make their way to the U.S. – many from central America.
Abbott says his plan is in response to an anticipated surge.
His democratic challenger Beto O’Rourke said it was a stunt.
“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 statement.
State Rep. Mary Gonzalez, a Democrat from El Paso, is Vice-Chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus.
Gonzalez said, “Instead of using our tax dollars to drive economic growth and build infrastructure, Governor Abbott is funding political stunts at the expense of Texas families and our troops."
At least one Republican criticized Abbott.
State Rep. Matt Schaefer of Tyler tweeted, “It’s a gimmick.”
Cedillo questioned whether inspections of vehicles will be done in a uniform fashion to avoid profiling and he worries migrants might not understand the buses are voluntary.
“Maybe they’re told to hop on this bus, you’re going to Washington. They may not know that they have the right to not have that happen,” he said.
Cedillo expects legal challenges.