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Governor Greg Abbott says Texas will bus migrants to Capitol in DC

Texas’ governor said Wednesday his state would begin ferrying and airlifting undocumented immigrants to the nation’s capital, escalating its clash with the Biden administration over border policy and its plans to phase out restrictions. of the pandemic era.

Governor Greg Abbott (R) announced the bus as part of a broader crackdown amid rising illegal crossings and fears that restoring old policies could overwhelm border communities. Over the past two years, a federal health order called Title 42 has allowed the government to deport more than 1.7 million migrants in the name of controlling covid-19.

Republicans and Democrats have expressed concerns about a humanitarian “crisis” on the US border with Mexico, but Abbott’s critics accuse him of favoring flashy policies over effective solutions. Wednesday’s mass relocation announcement drew expected cheers from conservatives and denunciations from advocates for undocumented immigrants, who noted that Abbott is seeking re-election this year.

“He is using human beings as political pinatas to score political points six months before his election,” Domingo Garcia, national president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), said in a statement. “It is petty to use the lives of refugees to manipulate public opinion.

Starting Thursday, Texas officials said, the state will begin offering bus rides to migrants released from federal custody while their court cases are ongoing. Abbott and other conservatives have derided current immigration policy as a ‘capture and release’ strategy, while migrant advocates say it’s the most humane way to deal with the many people asking for help. asylum in the United States.

CDC to phase out border restrictions; expected increase in crossings

At a Wednesday press conference, Abbott said the bus would help local officials “whose communities are overwhelmed” and suggested Texas was giving federal leaders a taste of their own medicine.

“We are sending them to the capital of the United States, where the Biden administration can respond more immediately to the needs of the people it allows to cross our border,” he said.

The bus is already helping redistribute migrants in Texas, the governor said. “So I said, I have a better idea,” he continued. “Instead of taking these people by bus to San Antonio, let’s continue the journey to Washington, DC”

The DC mayor’s office, the chairman of the DC Council and the US Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday evening.

The bus was the sharpest of a series of measures announced on Wednesday. Abbott and other Texas officials also said they would block “underwater passages” with barbed wire and “boat blockades”; increase lighting in “prominent smuggling areas”; and routinely inspect commercial vehicles entering Texas, a move Abbott says would help end human and drug trafficking.

“Now I know, in advance, that this will significantly slow down traffic from Mexico to Texas,” he said and promised more action to come next week.

The idea of ​​moving migrants out of state – sometimes targeting liberal areas – is not new. In 2019, under President Donald Trump, White House officials lobbied to release detainees in “sanctuary cities” in retaliation against political enemies, The Washington Post previously reported. Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials expressed concerns and ultimately rejected the proposal.

That same year, federal authorities also transported migrants from Texas to California as the facilities became overcrowded.

The pandemic has muddied the immigration system as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said people entering the United States pose a public health risk. Under Title 42, the government could deport migrants immediately without giving them the opportunity to seek asylum. Previously, they would have been detained and potentially released to live in the United States while their case is heard.

What is Title 42 and how might its end affect the border?

The Biden administration recently announced that it would phase out the highly controversial policy by May. Many Democrats and activists had been pushing for a return to normal – but the prospect of more migrants has also sparked some cross-party opposition.

“We expect that when the CDC finally decides it’s appropriate to lift Title 42, there will be an influx of people at the border,” White House Communications Director Kate Bedingfield said during the interview. from a press briefing last month, shortly before the CDC followed suit. . “And so we’re doing a lot of work to plan for that eventuality.”

Abbott called the decision to end Title 42 “reckless” – and doubled down on the border crackdown he has made central to his agenda and campaign for re-election. Last year, he said Texas had deployed thousands of law enforcement personnel to South Texas and promised to “start arresting everyone” – the state may not be in control. immigration enforcement, he said, but Texas officials could press charges for trespassing.

Critics said the pressure for arrests had backfired on strained border towns, creating a new crisis within the local criminal justice system. Prosecutors complained last year of a massive backlog of cases, while some migrants were held without charge for so long they had to be released.

“It’s basically a show of force from the governor’s office,” David Ortiz, an attorney representing migrants, told The Post last year. “Is it really doing, accomplishing something?”

Abbott’s latest policies have drawn similar criticism. “You can always count on Abbott to choose stunts over solutions,” tweeted Beto O’Rourke, the former Democratic congressman who hopes to unseat Abbott this year.

The Texas-based Center for Legal Education and Services (RAICES) for Refugees and Immigrants noted Abbott was “trying to make Texas white again,” while ACLU of Texas attorney Kate Huddleston said Abbott was playing politics and trying to “take control of the federal immigration authority “.

Abbott argued that Texas must act, with federal officials bracing for the arrival of as many as 18,000 migrants each day when Title 42 is lifted. “Because Joe Biden is not securing the border, the state of Texas must step in,” he said.


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