AUSTIN (Nexstar) – Gov. Greg Abbott announced Texas will start organizing charter buses to transport migrants — who have crossed the border and agree to it — all the way to the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
“As opposed to busing these people to San Antonio. Let’s continue the ride all the way to Washington, D.C.,” Abbott said at a Wednesday press conference.
Abbott directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to oversee the effort to transport migrants from Texas to Washington, D.C., which the agency’s head said would begin as early as Thursday. He shared this plan Wednesday afternoon as part of two new actions that he said would counter the impacts of the Biden administration ending the Title 42 Order.
In a press release Wednesday afternoon, Abbott clarified, “to board a bus or flight, migrants must volunteer to be transported and show documentation from DHS.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that it will lift the Title 42 Order on May 23. The Trump administration re-enacted this public health law in March 2020 as part of its effort to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from spreading across international borders between Mexico, Canada and the United States.
For the last two years, the U.S. sent back migrants and asylum-seekers who tried to cross land borders citing the threat to public health.
“After considering current public health conditions and an increased availability of tools to fight COVID-19 (such as highly effective vaccines and therapeutics), the CDC Director has determined that an Order suspending the right to introduce migrants into the United States is no longer necessary,” a statement from the CDC read.
The governor decried the CDC’s decision when it came to light on April 1. In a statement released that day, Abbott said, “Instead of listening to the millions of Americans that his administration has endangered—and instead of enforcing immigration laws passed by Congress—President Biden has chosen to jeopardize the safety and security of those very Americans he swore to protect and defend by ending Title 42 expulsions.”
Abbott said he’s also directing the Texas Department of Public Safety to begin conducting “enhanced safety inspections” of every commercial vehicle that crosses into the state from Mexico. He warned that this will “dramatically slow traffic” in areas near the border.
Some Texas businesses could feel the effect of backups at the border soon because of added strain on a supply chain experts said is still recovering from the pandemic.
Inside of Sazón, a Mexican restaurant in Central Texas, some essentials for the business like limes, avocados and tequila come from Mexico.
“As a small business owner, one of the things we’d like to do is stock up,” said Margarito Aranda, Sazón’s general manager.
Aranda said that’s not always possible. He said his restaurant is still somewhat feeling the impact of shortages on these goods caused by the pandemic. Now he wonders if they’ll have to make adjustments again after Abbott’s new directive.
“With all the supply chain challenges that companies are facing right now, there will be an effect,” Texas Tech Assistant Professor of Supply Chain Management Daniel Taylor said.
Taylor said the stalled traffic at the border will likely impact produce supply the most.
“Those would be the first ones to be noticed, right, that they go pretty well directly from the border to the grocery stores, you know, through their distribution networks. Those effects can be felt as in, as soon as a week,” Taylor said.
Mexico is Texas’ biggest trading partner, so Aranda prepares himself for what could affect his business.
“The price goes up, and the quantity goes down,” Aranda said. “But you know, it’s stuff we need.”
In 2019, pre-pandemic trade between Texas and Mexico accounted for more than $212 billion. Total U.S. ports of entry in Texas processed more than $440 billion of trade for the nation from Mexico.
To give you an idea of what this means, Mexico is the top trade partner for both Texas and the U.S. Seventy percent, or the vast majority, was truck traffic. Another 17% crossed by rail from Mexico.
When asked whether these inspections are constitutional, Abbott argued they’re legal, but said he anticipates lawsuits to be filed.
“They [DPS] will conduct them in a way that will ensure that there will be no constitutional issues that can validly be raised against it. Of course, everyone always files a lawsuit. We wouldn’t be surprised by a lawsuit,” he said.
Additionally, the Texas Military Department announced it will start conducting what it’s calling “mass migration rehearsals.” Those include placing a boat blockade on the Rio Grande River, razor wire along the river’s edge and equipping state troopers and National Guard members with riot gear.
At the news conference, Abbott and the various state agency leaders involved in these efforts did not disclose what these plans will cost to implement. As for the charter buses, the governor said it “requires no additional funding right now.”
As the governor is up for re-election in November, some were quick to take to social media, calling these plans a “political stunt.” His Democratic challenger, former El Paso Congressman Beto O’Rourke sent KXAN the following statement in response:
“If Abbott focused on solutions instead of stunts, then Texas could have made some real progress on this issue over the last seven years,” O’Rourke said.
Melissa Lucio clemency plea leads to bipartisan action from Texas lawmakers
A group of bipartisan Texas lawmakers visited a death row inmate whose execution they are trying to stop amid doubt about whether she fatally beat her 2-year-old daughter.
State Reps. Jeff Leach and Joe Moody on Wednesday led a group of lawmakers to the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, where the state houses women on death row, and visited Melissa Lucio.
Leach described his visit with Lucio as “very powerful.”
“The legislators made a commitment to her in that room that we’re going to do everything possible within our power to stop her execution,” Moody said.
Lucio was convicted of capital murder for the 2007 death of her daughter, Mariah. Prosecutors said Mariah was the victim of child abuse, and there is no evidence that would acquit Lucio of her daughter’s death. Her attorneys said she’s innocent, and jurors never heard evidence that would have acquitted her.
Many of Lucio’s supporters argue she was coerced into giving a false confession. After hours of intense interrogation, Lucio admitted to being responsible for her daughter’s bite and bruise marks but maintained her death was a result of an accidental fall down the stairs.
“It violates your right against self-incrimination if it wasn’t voluntary but also if it’s coerced,” said Baylor Law assistant professor Rachel Kincaide on the confession. “Who knows whether it’s true or not. That’s the real question that we’re trying to get at here.”
Kincaid believes Lucio shouldn’t be executed based on her confession alone. She said Lucio’s emotional state and history as a victim of abuse made her especially vulnerable to psychological tactics often used during interrogation.
“We know that a survivor of lifelong trauma like this is especially likely to be able to be coerced by authority figures in this scary context when she’s interrogated at length,” Kincaid said.
A false conviction played into the conviction of 12% of people released and cleared from prison, according to the National Registry of Exonerations. While Texas lawmakers don’t hold the authority in this case, Kincaid said they can pursue further legislative change.
“This definitely should be a moment of clarity for the legislature about, what protections do we need to make sure that this kind of thing doesn’t happen going forward?” Kincaid said.
Rep. Lacey Hull, R-Houston was also part of the bipartisan lawmakers who visited Lucio on Wednesday.
More than half of the Texas House signed a letter asking the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to intervene in Lucio’s execution. The bipartisan group has support from those both for and against the death penalty, Moody said.
“They signed it saying you should never execute someone when there’s a question of their guilt,” Moody said. “That is an unacceptable result, even if you’re a proponent of the death penalty.”
The representatives described their experience with Lucio as deeply emotional and moving. Hull, who prayed with Lucio, said she radiated hope, love and strength.
“I really hope that her case gives everyone great pause on the issue of the death penalty,” Hull said. “She is not the only possibly innocent man or woman that has either been on death row or has been executed in the past.”
Texas has the highest number of executions in the nation at 573.
Lucio’s fate ultimately lies in the hands of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and the governor. The board could recommend reprieving Lucio’s execution or commuting her sentence to life in prison, and Gov. Greg Abbott could choose to deny or accept. If not, Abbott could delay Lucio’s execution by a maximum of 30 days.
“The law requires the governor must wait for a decision from the Board of Pardon and Paroles,” Abbott said. “I’ll make a decision once it comes to me.”
Lucio’s execution is scheduled for April 27, and the board could take a vote as late as two days prior.
The House Committee on Criminal Justice Reform, chaired and vice-chaired by Leach and Moody, will meet on Tuesday to discuss legislation around the death penalty, with a laser focus on Lucio’s case. Moody said lawmakers are inviting testimony from the Cameron County, where her case originated.
Patrick pushes for Texas version of “Don’t Say Gay” law
Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced he wants to create a Texas version of a recently-signed bill in Florida that aims to give parents more rights when it comes to what their kids learn in school.
Under House Bill 1557 in Florida, school districts cannot talk about sexual orientation or gender identity with kids below fourth grade.
Critics call it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.
Texas has recently been the site of protests with the LGBTQ community feeling like its rights are being attacked.
“I found out around first grade that I was gay, and I was severely bullied for that,” a transgender pre-teen told KXAN in March.
The pre-teen said bullying is not what he’s most worried about now.
The law would also give parents the right to sue a district if they believe the law was broken.
“I think it doesn’t go far enough that the bill should include all grade levels,” said Tracy Shannon, CEO of pro-life organization Culture Warriors of America.
Shannon said she’s skeptical about reports of bullying and other harm brought on by this and similar legislation.
“I’d like to know exactly how it’s harming anybody,” Shannon said. “We didn’t talk about these things in school when I was growing up… we’re being told that people are dying because of our viewpoints.”
Data released last month by the Centers for Disease Control found that one in four teenagers who identified as LGBTQ+ said they attempted suicide during the first half of 2021.
The CDC’s findings also revealed that almost half (46.8%) of teenagers who said they are lesbian, gay or bisexual seriously considered a suicide attempt during that same time frame. These results came to light from the CDC’s first national survey of high school students, a project funded by the federal CARES Act to assess the mental health of American youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- You can reach a trained crisis counselor through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255 or texting 741741. For LGBTQ mental health support, call the Trevor Project’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 866-488-7386.
Health experts at the CDC said they hope publishing these survey results will create more awareness about the serious mental health concerns of young people and highlight the need for more support to address those in schools and in public policy. They suggested in the report that one strategy could include “fostering connectedness at school and with others.”
Evan Donovan, a Florida politics reporter, has followed the progression of HB 1557 in Florida.
“What it’s looked like for us is trying to accurately represent what it says in the bill, while also representing what the opponents of the bill say is already happening—which is that it’s having a chilling effect on speech in classrooms about LGBTQ people,” Donovan said.
“It goes into effect on July 1, there’s already been a lawsuit trying to stop it,” Donovan added.
Other aspects of the bill aren’t as controversial.
“It does things like forces school districts to notify parents if there’s a change in their student’s services or monitoring,” Donovan said. “It forces them to respond to parental concerns within a week to resolve those concerns within a month.”
Patrick said a bill similar to Florida’s law would be a priority in the 2023 Texas legislative session.
State Senator ends re-election bid, says new district lines make winning “impossible”
Texas State Senator Beverly Powell announced that she is ending her campaign for re-election. The Tarrant County Democrat says there’s no way she can win, after her district was re-drawn to favor Republicans.
Powell represents Texas Senate District 10. That district changed dramatically in the redistricting process, finalized by lawmakers last fall.
When Powell was first elected in 2018, the district boundaries were entirely inside Tarrant County. After redistricting, the district added seven mostly-rural counties. The boundaries now stretch west from Tarrant County all the way to the outskirts of Abilene.
Powell says the new lines cut out many of the voters who elected her to represent them.
“The African American population, the Hispanic and Asian population,” Powell said, referencing people drawn out of District 10 and into other districts.
“This is a more Anglo population now, and it would be impossible for a candidate like me, who relies on that coalition district to be elected in the new SD 10,” Powell concluded.
Her decision to drop out means Democrats won’t have a candidate on the November ballot. That opens the door for State Representative Phil King to win the seat. The Weatherford Republican won the party’s nomination in the March primary. King has served in the Texas House since 1999.