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Immigrant Rights Groups Slam Gov. Abbott Over Border 'Strike Force' Coalition

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is attempting to ramp up border security.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is attempting to ramp up border security.
Billed as an effort to ramp up border security, Gov. Greg Abbott and 25 other GOP governors recently announced a new strike force. But critics say the move is the latest in a series of anti-immigrant political stunts that divide the very communities they’re purporting to protect.

On Wednesday, Austin’s KVUE reported that the new coalition comes as Border Patrol has seen a 34% spike in migrant encounters in March, when compared with the previous month. The governors say they’re concerned by that increase because Title 42 is ending in May. Title 42 is a Trump-era public health policy aimed at turning migrants away from the southern border amid the pandemic.

The coalition is called the “American Governors’ Border Strike Force” and includes Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia. These state leaders claim it'll allow them to crack down on human and drug smuggling by sharing information with one another.

Still, not everyone supports the new strike force.

This is just another political stunt from Texas’ governor, said Laura Peña, director of the Beyond Borders program at the Texas Civil Rights Project. Of the list of governors who have signed on to the group, 18 are up for reelection in November.

“Border communities are tired of being used as political pawns and career, money-hungry, power-driven politicians,” she said. “We’re fed up with it.”

Last year, Texas’ governor launched Operation Lone Star, integrating the state’s national guard with the Department of Public Safety. Its stated goal is similarly to target smugglers and Mexican drug cartels crossing the border.

Now, border communities have troopers all over the place, Peña said, adding that Operation Lone Star is unconstitutional and discriminatory. The rates of warnings and citations are also becoming burdensome for residents, she said.

The strike force is a “bloated taxpayer expense,” and the money should be going to places like health care and education, Peña continued. “There are real issues in border communities where monies can be sent to lift people up, not to put more money into pockets of politicians,” she said.

"They're only interested in pushing hateful narratives rooted in racism that instill fear and further divide communities." – Jessica Azua, immigration justice director

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The strike force is one more attempt to militarize the border the U.S. shares with Mexico, said Jessica Azua, the immigration justice director with the Texas Organizing Project. Along with Abbott's cohort of fellow right-wing governors, he's treating what’s ultimately a humanitarian issue with a “dangerous and failed militant approach,” she said.

“These governors aren't interested in adopting rational solutions that respect migrants' rights and dignity; they're only interested in pushing hateful narratives rooted in racism that instill fear and further divide communities,” Azua said in a news release.

But earlier this week, Abbott insisted during an interview with FOX that the Biden administration had failed to keep the border safe and secure.
On top of the coalition, Abbott has directed at least seven buses of undocumented immigrants to the nation’s capital in protest of the close of Title 42, according to Chron. He also told FOX host Sean Hannity earlier this week that he'd consider directing the buses to drop the migrants in President Joe Biden’s home state.

“We're going to load them up and send them to Washington, D.C.,” he said. “If we run out of room there, Delaware looks like a great location."