Gov. Abbott mocked for claiming South African immigrants crossing border illegally

Texas Politics

FILE PHOTO: Texas Governor Gregg Abbott speaking to the press following his tour of the Southern border wall on June 30, 2021. Abbott announced that Texas had begun building its state border barrier days before. Credit: Sal Castro, ValleyCentral

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is calling President Joe Biden’s policies at the border — to stop the flow of “illegal” South African migrants coming into the U.S. The statement comes after the U.S. restricted travel from several southern African countries on Saturday due to concerns of the recently emerged omicron COVID-19 variant.

In a tweet Sunday night, Abbott claimed: “Immigrants have recently been apprehended crossing our border illegally from South Africa. Biden is doing nothing to stop immigrants from South Africa entering illegally. Pure politics and hypocrisy.”

The statement was confusing to many, as it’s not clear if Abbott was referring to other U.S. borders or to the Texas-Mexico southern border, which is a frequent talking point of the governor.

Recent stopping of South African migrants at the Texas border hasn’t previously been noted.

It’s unclear whether Abbott was referring to a 2019 incident when Border Patrol in Del Rio, Texas, stopped over 500 African migrants as they crossed the Rio Grande. Those migrants, however, were not from any southern African countries, but from areas like the Republic of the Congo and Angola.

In September, thousands of migrants from Haiti — a Caribbean country — were detained in Del Rio.

Others online theorized Abbott might be mistaking “South Africa” for “South America.”

A statement from Abbott’s Press Secretary Renae Eze said more than 50 undocumented immigrants from South Africa and other South African countries have been apprehended by Border Patrol this year, with 18 being caught in November alone.

“President Biden’s hypocritical handling of legal travel and border policies has shown the world that the United States is open—as long as you enter illegally. Coming from over 150 countries around the world, including countries covered under the Biden travel ban, President Biden’s hands-off approach to our southern border has opened the floodgates to a 61-year record-high number of illegal immigrants surging into our state,” said Eze in a statement to KXAN. “Over 50 illegal immigrants from South Africa and other South African countries under the Biden travel ban have been apprehended by CBP this year, with 18 being apprehended in November alone.”

Response online ranged from confusion to ridicule, with many responding to the tweet with jokes.

Abbott has frequently lobbed blame at the Biden administration for an influx of migrants seeking legal asylum at the U.S-Mexico border. The governor says Biden’s “reckless” border policies have not only allowed illegal migration, but have encouraged it.

As recently as Friday, Abbott tweeted: “Texas is securing the border. As Biden does nothing, thousands of Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Safety personnel are deployed to protect Texas communities.”

Meanwhile, the U.S.’ halt of travel from several southern African countries began Monday, with restrictions on flights from Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique, Eswatini and Malawi.

The 5.1.1.529 COVID-19 variant, named “omicron” by the World Health Organization, was detected in Africa earlier this month and has caused panic globally amid early evidence suggesting it has an increased risk for re-infection.

“Until President Biden stops the hypocrisy and does his job, Texas will continue stepping up to secure the border and protect Texans. Since Governor Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March, the National Guard and DPS have apprehended over 80,000 migrants and arrested over 9,700 who committed a state or federal crime, including smugglers and human traffickers, to crack down on illegal crossings of migrants,” said Eze.

WHO and other medical experts have warned against major panic over the emergence, saying that while some of its mutations are cause for concern, there’s not yet any indication it causes more severe disease.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa says he’s “deeply disappointed” by the travel bans from several countries. WHO Africa director Matshidiso Moeti also said targeting Africa when the variant has been detected in several regions around the globe “attacks global solidarity.”

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