Texas Has Bused 50,000 Migrants. Now It Wants to Arrest Them Instead.
After Gov. Greg Abbott began busing newly-arrived migrants from Texas to major Democratic cities, whose leaders had promised to provide sanctuary. The state has sent more than 50 000 migrants to destinations throughout the United States. This has helped to cause a shelter crisis across several cities, which has reshaped debates about immigration.
Many saw Mr. Abbott’s announcement that the first bus was sent to Washington in April as a way to score political points, by drawing attention to President Biden’s alleged inaction at the border. Florida’s Governor, Ron DeSantis jumped into the fray to charter a flight that flew 48 migrants to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Since then, however, the program has evolved into an organized system of migrant transport, which helps alleviate the pressure on border towns by sending new arrivals to a growing list of destinations. These include Chicago and Denver. The cost is approximately $75 million, and it’s still rising.
The busing program, modeled after disaster relief efforts in Texas following hurricanes and flooding, but with a political motivation to “bring border” to Democratic-held strongholds has been more successful than Mr. Abbott or his advisors expected, changing the conversation about immigration in major American Cities. The busing program has prompted Democrats like Mayor Eric Adams in New York to call for federal action, and make difficult decisions about how to treat people who arrive on their doorstep.
George Arzt, an experienced Democratic political consultant from New York, said that the incident had a significant impact on the policies and actions of the mayor. “People in Democratic Party want help migrants without angering permanent residents here.”
Chicago has seen tensions rise after Mayor Brandon Johnson announced he was going to the border this month to assess the situation. He then retracted the announcement, saying that he wanted to stay home and deal with the problem at hand. Instead, a city delegation was sent.
Denver officials responded by adopting a similar strategy to that of Mr. Abbott: they paid for bus tickets in order to send thousands migrants who arrived via bus to other cities.
Texas is responsible for thousands migrants who have arrived in cities where Democratic leaders are the majority, but many more have come by other routes. According to the data provided by New York City, more than 120,00 migrants have arrived in the city since spring 2022. About 20,000 of those people arrived on buses chartered under the Abbott administration.
The Abbott program, however, has focused a large number migrants, many of whom are low-income and have few connections, in a limited number of cities selected by Texas. They were also delivered in a highly publicized way, a stark contrast to the more diffuse movement of migrants who travel across the nation on private buses and flights, using their own funds, or with charity groups that receive federal funding.
Denver, for instance, paid for the bus tickets, but let migrants choose their destination, and a smaller number of tickets for planes and buses. Approximately half of the 8800 migrants traveled to New York or Chicago while the remaining half travelled to a number of other cities including Salt Lake City and Miami.
Muzaffar Chistti, senior researcher at the Migration Policy Institute (a nonpartisan research centre), said that the migrant crisis wouldn’t have received the attention it did in blue states and cities if the Texas Governor hadn’t launched a targeted busing program. “I think that’s why the busing chapter in American immigration history will be forever remembered by immigration historians.”
His top advisers admitted that the Texas program had not achieved what was perhaps Mr. Abbott’s most important goal: forcing the federal governments to adopt stricter border controls. This is a Republican-favored policy.
In the 11 months leading up to the end of August, federal border agents encountered approximately 1.1 million migrants along the Texas border. About 40 percent of the migrants who crossed the southern U.S. Border have been allowed into the country.
Mr. Abbott has now launched an even audaciousr effort. He wants to change Texas laws to make crossing the Mexican border without authorization a crime. This would allow the police to arrest anyone who crosses the Rio Grande in Texas, including asylum seekers.
The State Senate has passed a bill that will do exactly that during this month’s special legislative session. However, it still needs to be approved by Texas House. Immigration lawyers said that the bill violated the federal government’s preemptive role when it comes to setting immigration policy.
Some critics view the move as an intentional attempt to create a case that would allow the conservative Supreme Court to expand state power over immigration. Jennefer Canales Pelaez, Texas policy strategist and lawyer at the Immigrant legal Resource Center, described the bill as “an obvious effort to challenge Arizona v. United States”, referring to the 2012 Supreme Court ruling upholding the role of the federal government in immigration.
Mr. Abbott’s top advisers said that overturning the precedent was not their intention, but that they would be willing to defend a similar law in court if necessary as part of the challenge against federal immigration policy.
Gardner Pate is the chief of staff for the governor. “We are pulling all the levers we can and constantly trying to come up with new ones.”
Operation Lone Star is Mr. Abbott’s multi-billion dollar border security program, which includes the busing program. It also involves the use of National Guard troops to discourage migrants from crossing Rio Grande.
Some border residents and officials have complained, but many others have seen busing as an emergency measure.
Jorge Rodriguez, emergency management coordinator in El Paso, said, “If we don’t get people moving within three to four days, then our system will be backed up.” He said that for several weeks in the past year, El Paso chartered its buses and sent about 14,000 migrants north – primarily to New York. The city has partnered with Mr. Abbott’s program.
According to data from the city, since last month when there was an influx of migrants, more than 7700 have traveled to Chicago, Denver, and New York. Rodriguez stated that “about 99 percent of migrants who come to El Paso do not stay in El Paso”.
The advisers to Mr. Abbott said that Governor Abbott started the busing programme after local officials complained that they couldn’t keep up.