Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order aimed at apprehending undocumented immigrants and returning them to the border. Supporters say the move is necessary amid federal neglect. Detractors say it stands on shaky legal grounds and could result in racial profiling against Latinos.
El Paso Congresswoman Veronica Escobar slammed the governor’s “invasion” rhetoric during a call hosted by America’s Voice, an immigration advocacy group. The Democrat said his latest border endeavors amount to a “misuse of resources.”
Critics have widely panned many of Abbott’s border efforts as political theater, including the busing of migrants to Washington, D.C.
Abbott’s red-meat rhetoric concerns Escobar. She fears it could lead to attacks on communities like hers.
“Should there be any violence that is linked to this kind of rhetoric, I would hope that our citizens would hold people like Greg Abbott accountable for that,” she said. “It's unacceptable, it's inhumane, and it is reckless and dangerous.”
In 2019, the El Paso shooting suspect cited a supposed “Mexican invasion” in his manifesto. He allegedly crossed the state with the intent to kill people who looked Mexican, ultimately claiming 23 lives at a Walmart.
Although Abbott condemned the shooting, he isn’t the only one warning of a border crisis today. Last week, officials from several border counties announced that they’d declared an invasion at Texas’ southern frontier.
The U.S.-Mexico border was recently deemed “the deadliest land crossing in the world,” having witnessed at least 728 deaths in 2021, according to the United Nations’ International Organization for Migration.
Still, advocates and rights groups have pushed back on the GOP’s claims of a supposed “open border” approach by President Joe Biden's administration.
"Republican candidates must publicly refute these dangerous ideas." – Zach Mueller, America's Voice political director
“Virtually all of [former President Donald] Trump’s policies are still in place; not a single inch of wall has been torn down,” Escobar said. “In many ways, the status quo that existed under the Trump administration, it still exists today, so this idea that suddenly the border is open is just a lie.”
Abbott is trying to ramp up border paranoia for political gain, said Antonio Arellano, the vice president of communications for the progressive advocacy nonprofit NextGen America. Abbott has promoted conspiracy theories and “inject[ed] hate” ahead of the race to drum up more support from the GOP base, Arellano claimed.
Regardless, he said, such political stunts can carry serious consequences that imperil safety for both Texans and migrants.
Abbott’s office didn’t return a request for comment by publication time. But in a statement to the Observer last week, a spokesperson said Texas was prepared to step in to do the federal government’s job.
The spokesperson pointed out that the state “has deployed thousands of Texas National Guard soldiers and DPS troopers and spent over $4 billion of Texas taxpayer money to secure our border, including building our own border wall, erecting strategic barriers and sending significant resources to help our local partners.”
Political ads are turning more nativist in nature and are “increasingly violent and dangerous,” said Zach Mueller, America’s Voice political director. Conspiracy theories about an invasion have been linked to mass shootings in Buffalo, El Paso and Pittsburgh.
Republicans, especially those running in battleground border districts, must speak out against this kind of rhetoric, Mueller argued. “These Republican candidates must publicly refute these dangerous ideas,” he added. “Otherwise, they are complicit in the dangerous targets that have been put on the backs of those communities.”