WESLACO, Texas (Border Report) — In what he is calling an “unprecedented” state response to a “migration crisis,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced a set of sweeping border security initiatives that include busing migrants to the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., blocking the Rio Grande and conducting extensive searches of commercial trucks coming from Mexico.
Abbott made the announcement Wednesday afternoon during a news conference at the Texas Department of Public Safety’s regional headquarters in the border city of Weslaco, Texas. He was joined by state leaders from DPS, the Texas Military and National Guard, and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).
But he was sparse on specifics and that left some border leaders telling Border Report that they wonder how the State of Texas will execute these initiatives.
The plans come just days after the Biden administration announced that it was revoking Title 42 on May 23. That’s the public health law put in place by the Trump administration in March 2020 that prevented asylum-seekers from crossing onto U.S. soil in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
He said that when Title 42 is disbanded, an estimated 18,000 undocumented migrants per day will try to cross the Southwest border. That’s more than 500,000 per month, he said.
And he said Texas was getting ahead of the potential surge by spending Texas taxpayer funds “to do what the Biden administration has failed to do,” he said.
“With the Biden administration ending Title 42 in May, Texas will be taking its own unprecedented actions this month to do what no state in America has ever done in the history of this country to better secure our state, and our nation,” Abbott said.
This includes sending migrants via charter buses to Washington, D.C. “to the steps of the U.S. Capitol,” Abbott said.
“To help local officials, whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants who are being dropped off by the Biden administration, Texas is providing charter buses to send these illegal immigrants who have been dropped off by the Biden administration to Washington, D.C. We are sending them to the United States Capitol where the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the immediate needs of people they are allowing to come across our border,” Abbott said.
A news release issued by Abbott’s office after his news conference clarified that the state will “charter buses and flights to transport migrants who have been processed and released from federal custody to Washington, D.C.” The release also specifies that in order to “board a bus or flight, a migrant must volunteer to be transported and show documentation from DHS.”
TDEM Chief Nim Kidd said the state has access to up to 900 buses to use for emergencies but it is unclear exactly how many buses will be deployed and how and where the migrants will board them.
Abbott also said the state “would deploy boat blockades at appropriate regions in the Rio Grande River,” as well as putting up razor wire in low-water crossings, and high-traffic areas, and putting up “container blockades to drive people away from low-water crossings.”
Starting Thursday, Texas National Guard troops will begin “mass migration rehearsals” for “a potential mass influx of people coming across the border,” Abbott said.
Maneuvers and maritime activities will take place in five border areas, including Del Rio, Eagle Pass, Laredo, Zapata and at the Anzalduas Bridge south of Mission, Texas, Abbott said.
Since last year, Abbott’s Operation Lone Star initiative has set up miles of razor wire along the border, as well as boat blockades in high-trafficked areas, like Roma, Texas.
Abbott said DPS troopers stationed on the border also will conduct extensive searches of commercial vehicles and trucks crossing from Mexico right after the vehicles cross into U.S. ports of entry “and once they are on Texas land” to ensure there are no migrants being smuggled.
Abbott acknowledged truck and trade traffic is vital to Texas’ economy, and to deliver goods to the nation.
U.S. Rep. Henry Cuellar, a Democrat from Laredo, told Border Report that he doubts Abbott “is trying to stop trade.”
Over 18,000 trucks cross through Laredo daily, Cuellar said, “and that has an impact on the chain supply all the way to the Canadian border.”
Zapata County Judge Joe Rathmell told Border Report that he has been told there would be increased vehicle inspections on vehicles coming in from Mexico at international crossings. Zapata County has no port of entry and Rathmell was uncertain how inspections would be conducted in his county, which is an hour-drive east of Laredo.
As for the busloads of migrants being sent by Texas to the U.S. Capitol, Cuellar told Border Report “I have no idea how that will work.”
Cuellar said he believes Abbott is trying “to highlight the frustration that is felt along here, along the state of Texas border. He’s trying to highlight the large numbers” of encounters by Border Patrol agents since 2021.
“Whether he can send those charter buses and drop them off there at the Capitol, we’ll see,” Cuellar said.
When asked by Border Report about reports Wednesday that the governor would call the situation an “invasion” and deputize National Guard troops and DPS officers to send back migrants to Mexico, Abbott said to “question your sources because they’re not good.” But he added that he plans to make more border security announcements next week.