In Dallas, Gov. Abbott Takes Aim at Biden Administration over Immigration

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is in a political row with the Biden administration over a spike in migrant arrivals
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is in a political row with the Biden administration over a spike in migrant arrivals U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott lashed out at President Joe Biden’s administration on Wednesday over a surge in migrant arrivals on the southern border.

Abbott delivered his remarks at a press conference in Dallas, across the street from the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center, where the federal government plans to house 3,000 unaccompanied immigrant teens.

“These sites are a direct result of President Biden’s reckless open-border policies that are causing a surge in border crossings and cartel activity,” Abbott told reporters.

“The Biden administration must also answer for enticing unaccompanied minors into inhumane conditions that expose these children to traffickers, to abuse and to terror,” he added.

In recent weeks, Texas politicians, including many Republicans, have claimed that the Biden administration’s policies are creating an unprecedented crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border. The governor prompted backlash after blaming migrants for spreading COVID-19 the same week he lifted statewide coronavirus restrictions, including a mask mandate.

Earlier this month, Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, which a press release at the time said “integrates DPS with the Texas National Guard” and includes operations aimed at targeting Mexican drug cartels, smugglers and others crossing the border.

On Wednesday, the governor said he was “expanding the scope of Operation Lone Star to crack down on human trafficking,” explaining that the Texas Department of Public Safety will work with several agencies to focus on trafficking and continue to “apprehend unaccompanied minors” who cross the border.

“Today, I am directly asking the Biden administration to allow the Texas Department of Public Safety to access this facility across the street at the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Center as well as the other federally run centers in Texas, to be able to talk to these unaccompanied minors,” he said.

However, the number of arrivals peaked in May 2019 under former President Donald Trump’s administration, and although it slumped drastically after that, it began to rise again in April 2020.

Migrant rights groups have criticized Abbott and other Texas Republicans over their response to the surge on the border.

"The crisis we see is a crisis of people having to wait in tents during storms.” - Claudia Muñoz, Grassroots Leadership

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"The crisis we see is a crisis of people having to wait in tents during storms,” Claudia Muñoz, co-executive director of the Austin-based Grassroots Leadership, told the Observer. “The crisis at the border has been there for a long time because there's no humane process.”

Although Abbott mentioned the migrants’ humanitarian hardships at Wednesday’s press conference, the governor and his colleagues’ messaging was focused on human trafficking, child sex trafficking and drug trafficking.

“Texas is willing to step up and help out, but this is the Biden administration’s responsibility," Abbott said. "In part, immigration is always a federal responsibility. In part, it’s the policies that have been adopted by the Biden administration that escalated the number of children coming across the border.”

Meanwhile, Texas Republicans have doubled down in their criticism of the Biden administration’s approach to the border.

In El Paso on Monday, House minority leader Kevin McCarthy said, “There’s no other way to claim it than a Biden border crisis.”
U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz echoed McCarthy, alleging on Twitter that President Biden’s team “has handed control of immigration over to the radical Left.”

Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas again rejected descriptions of the surge in arrivals as a “crisis,” instead saying he reserved that term for Trump-era migration policies.

“A crisis is when a nation is willing to rip a 9-year-old child out of the hands of his or her parent and separate that family to deter future migration,” Mayorkas said during a House hearing. “That, to me, is a humanitarian crisis.”
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Patrick Strickland is the news editor at the Dallas Observer. He's a former senior reporter at Al Jazeera English and has reported for the New York Review of Books, The Guardian, Politico EU and The New Republic, among others.