AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas has spent more than $14 million sending buses of migrants to East Coast sanctuary cities, according to records obtained by Nexstar.
As of Aug. 18, the state had paid a total of $14,116,303.33 to Wynne Transportation to bus more than 8,000 migrants from Texas border communities to Washington, D.C., and New York City, according to documents from the Texas Division of Emergency Management — the agency tasked with this initiative.
The program sends migrants to other U.S. cities as part of Gov. Greg Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” — a multibillion dollar initiative to slow down border crossings. The Republican governor began sending busloads of migrants outside of the state in April, saying it will ease the burden of immigration on Texas cities.
Last week, Abbott announced Chicago would become a new routine stop to send migrants, after local officials awoke to bus full of 75 immigrants arriving in the Windy City last Thursday. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot said her city would help the migrants, but joined criticism from other fellow Democratic mayors calling Abbott’s approach “racist and xenophobic” in a press conference after the migrants’ arrival.
“President Biden’s inaction at our southern border continues putting the lives of Texans — and Americans — at risk and is overwhelming our communities,” said Abbott in a statement. “Mayor Lightfoot loves to tout the responsibility of her city to welcome all regardless of legal status, and I look forward to seeing this responsibility in action as these migrants receive resources from a sanctuary city with the capacity to serve them.”
Cost breakdown of the buses
Migrants are being bused on a voluntary basis and do not pay the state to be transported. The documents show detailed invoices breaking down the amount charged to the state for bus mileage, driver pay and other assorted transportation costs, but not a price per passenger since migrants are not paying for their ticket.
The invoices Nexstar obtained through a public information request are dated up until Aug. 18, so it does not include costs of the latest buses sent to Chicago.
TDEM has chartered more than 200 buses through Wynne Transportation, an Irving-based company that has reviews describing it as a “first class service.”
According to the records, the most expensive part of these trips are security personnel. In one instance, Wynne charged TDEM $61,2000 for “security guards” on May 20 — a day when 19 migrants arrived at the nation’s capital.
A senior spokesperson with TDEM told Nexstar the state saw security as a necessary precaution to take, in order to protect “passengers and drivers as they make a cross-country trip,” noting the immigrants could “easily become targets.”
The drivers also cost tens-of-thousands of dollars collectively, with costs varying from the hundreds range to thousands — depending on hours worked and mileage rate.
Based on the total $14 million cost and how many migrants have been bused, each one is costing the state about $1,753. This figure factors in all assorted costs — driver pay, private security and all costs associated with each bus chartered.
Nexstar looked at the cost of Greyhound tickets from Texas border towns to these cities to compare what an indivudal ticket costs for this week. An economy one-way ticket from Del Rio to Chicago, for example, would cost $166. A ticket from Eagle Pass to N.Y.C. costs $228 and a one-way from Laredo to D.C. costs $321.
All of the state’s trips are being funded mostly by Texas taxpayer dollars, coming from money appropriated by the Texas Legislature for border security under Operation Lone Star.
The state is also pooling funds from the governor’s online donation portal for anyone to chip-in to his initiative, which has been largely praised by conservatives. As of Aug. 31, the border transportation fund had raised $303,481 — providing a little over 2% of the total cost of this initiative.