Greg Abbott Spent $1,400 a Head To Bus Migrants to D.C. for a Political Stunt

“In early April, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott unveiled a controversial plan to send buses full of undocumented immigrants to Washington, D.C. The policy, Abbott said, would “help local officials whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants.”

But it turns out those communities might be stuck footing the hefty bill for Abbott’s busing scheme. According to state records obtained by Dallas–Fort Worth’s NBC 5, bussing costs came out to over $1.6 million in April and May. With 1,154 migrants transported during that period, the per-rider cost was roughly $1,400.

That’s far more expensive than a commercial bus or train ticket would’ve cost—a one-way journey from El Paso, Texas, to Washington, D.C., runs somewhere between $200 and $300 as of this article’s writing. It’s also more expensive than a first-class plane ticket from a border town to Washington, which NBC 5 reported ranged between $800 and $900. And it’s more than the public spends on average to transport a student to school for an entire school year.

NBC 5 notes that costs are so high in part because the state has hired security guards to staff each bus.”

“Costs are further inflated by the fact that buses drive back to Texas from Washington empty, having dropped off their passengers. Texas, however, gets billed for all total mileage.”

“Abbott’s busing plan is by no mean his only expensive anti-immigrant endeavor. He vowed last year to build a wall along his state’s border with Mexico, initially transferring $250 million in state revenues to the project as a “down payment.” A donation page for the wall has collected $55,322,273 as of May 27—unlikely to make a significant dent, given that a section of former President Donald Trump’s border wall in Texas came out to $27 million a mile. Abbott’s border-securing mission, Operation Lone Star, costs taxpayers over $2.5 million per week. That effort also left hundreds of migrants in pretrial detention for weeks or months over misdemeanor trespassing charges”

Texas Gov. Abbott’s border inspections prompt Mexico to move lucrative trade link to New Mexico

“Trucks were re-routed through Santa Teresa when Abbott’s inspections snarled commercial traffic at Texas border crossings, and now Mexico has decided to move a long-planned trade railway connection worth billions of dollars from Texas to the New Mexico crossing, The Dallas Morning News reported Sunday. “We’re now not going to use Texas,” Mexican Economy Minister Tatiana Clouthier said. “We can’t leave all the eggs in one basket and be hostages to someone who wants to use trade as a political tool.””

Abbott’s border policy cost the U.S. almost $9 billion in just 10 days

“Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s short-lived policy of requiring state troopers to conduct secondary inspections of trucks crossing into Texas from Mexico cost the United States almost $9 billion in just 10 days, Axios reported Tuesday.

The policy, which Abbott enacted on April 6, snarled truck traffic at the border and led to a protest by Mexican truckers that stopped trade at some major crossings. On April 15, Abbott ended the double inspections, for which he’d received withering criticism from both sides of the border and the aisle, after striking deals with the governors of the four Mexican states that border Texas.

Per Axios, Abbott implemented the policy “in response to the Biden administration’s announcement that it would lift Title 42,” a Trump-era public health policy that denied migrants entry into the United States.

An analysis by the Perryman Group showed that the U.S. lost an estimated $8.97 billion in GDP due to delays at the border, while Texas alone lost $4.23 billion.”

Greg Abbott Has Used Migrants as Political Pawns Again and Again. Now, He Says He’ll Bus Them to Capitol Hill.

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has long held that his state is facing an “invasion,” which consists of thousands of migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico over the Rio Grande. Now, in an attempt to resist “the Biden open border policies” he claims are endangering Texans and compromising national security, Abbott is prepared to implement a policy that drew scrutiny as soon as he announced it.

“To help local officials whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants,” said Abbott, “Texas is providing charter buses to send these illegal immigrants who have been dropped off by the Biden administration to Washington, D.C.””

“immigration advocates and those with a passing respect for individual rights pointed out that Abbott’s proposal, as stated, is both immoral and illegal. Transporting migrants across state lines against their will “sounds dangerously close to federal felony kidnapping,” argued Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, senior policy counsel at the American Immigration Council. Further, Title 8 of U.S. Code Section 1324(a) states that “any person who…knowing or in reckless disregard of the fact that an alien has come to, entered, or remains in the United States in violation of law, transports, or moves or attempts to transport or move such alien within the United States by means of transportation or otherwise…shall be punished.”

Perhaps those snags are why the governor’s office has since softened its tone on busing migrants north. A press release published after the press conference stressed that “a migrant must volunteer to be transported” in order to board a bus or flight to Washington, D.C.”

“the new busing policy sits atop a heap of misguided, expensive, and dubiously legal initiatives the governor has undertaken in order to keep migrants out of his state—people who have the right under U.S. immigration law to seek asylum in Texas.

This policy comes from the man who proposed building a border wall of his own after former President Donald Trump’s never came to fruition. Abbott’s project, which is ongoing, ran into many of the same issues as Trump’s—exorbitant costs, tension between federal and state jurisdiction, and the need for egregious eminent domain claims in order to get the job done (not to mention a lack of widespread support). “The elected officials in border communities don’t support [Abbott’s] plans,” American Civil Liberties Union of Texas attorney David Donatti told Reason last year.

The governor’s border-securing mission—Operation Lone Star—has been similarly fraught. While Abbott and other state officials bragged about “more than 11,000 criminal arrests, drug seizures that amount to millions of ‘lethal doses,'” and tens of thousands of undocumented immigrant referrals to the federal government for deportation, watchdogs reported “arrests of U.S. citizens hundreds of miles from the border,” “claiming drug busts from across the state,” and changing statistics and metrics of success, according to The Texas Tribune. Several Texas National Guard soldiers stationed at the border committed suicide during the operation, while dozens more criticized the mission’s execution in an internal survey. With its spotty track record, the still-active Operation Lone Star costs taxpayers more than $2.5 million each week.

With that background in mind, it isn’t surprising that Abbott would opt for a blusterous anti-migrant spectacle that comes at the expense of Texas taxpayers and neglects any humanitarian or legal obligations to asylum seekers.”

Texas’ Costly ‘Operation Lone Star’ Leaves Alleged Illegal Immigrants Trapped in Jail with No Due Process

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s border-control crusade is overwhelming court systems, leaving detainees stuck in jails for weeks or even months without due process, and generally isn’t resulting in many convictions.
Abbott launched “Operation Lone Star” in March. Border enforcement is ordinarily the federal government’s job, but Abbott decided to deploy the state’s Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to “deny Mexican Cartels and other smugglers the ability to move drugs and people into Texas.”

Instead, according to media reports from multiple outlets, suspected illegal immigrants caught at the border are being arrested for misdemeanor trespassing and then being held in jail. And then…nothing, frequently. The Wall Street Journal reports that only 3 percent of the 1,500 people who have been arrested under Operation Lone Star have been convicted, all with guilty pleas of misdemeanor trespassing.

Texas does not have the authority to deport any of these people, so the rest are either still detained in jail or being released back into the community—the very outcome Abbott insists he was trying to stop.”

“Lacking any ability to deport these immigrants and apparently not being able to charge most of them with crimes other than trespassing and some property crimes (because they likely are not the drug cartel smugglers and human traffickers Abbott claims they are), many of them are just sitting in pretrial detention for weeks or months. Normally a person arrested in Texas for a nonviolent misdemeanor would be released or out on bail quickly, in a matter of days at most. That’s not happening here.”

“Meanwhile the courts on these border counties are being overwhelmed. Texas Monthly reports that Kinney County (population: 3,659), the ground zero for a lot of these arrests, hasn’t had a jury trial in seven years. Kinney officials have filed charges against those they’ve detained, more than 1,000 migrants, but it’s not entirely clear how they’ll be able to arrange trials.

Abbott’s crusade comes with costs, and they’re considerable. Abbott shifted $250 million dollars from elsewhere in the budget (including the prison system itself) to fund this program. And the state legislature directed another $3 billion his way for border enforcement. Officials in Kinney County calculate that actually prosecuting all these immigrants will cost them $5 million, but Operation Lone Star’s funding is sending only $3.19 million their way, according to Texas Monthly.”

The Texas Social Media Law Is Blatantly Unconstitutional

“Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who..signed a bill that aims to restrict social media platforms’ editorial discretion, says the new law “protects Texans from wrongful censorship” and thereby upholds their “first amendment rights.” The law, H.B. 20, is scheduled to take effect on December 2, but that probably will not happen, because it is blatantly unconstitutional and inconsistent with federal law.

Abbott, a former Texas Supreme Court justice who served as his state’s attorney general from 2002 to 2015, presumably knows that. But whether he is sincerely mistaken or cynically catering to his party’s base, H.B. 20 reflects widespread confusion among conservatives about what the First Amendment requires and allows.”

“the First Amendment applies to the government and imposes no constraints on private parties.

To the contrary, the First Amendment guarantees a private publisher’s right to exercise editorial discretion. The Supreme Court emphasized that point in a 1974 case involving a political candidate’s demand that The Miami Herald publish his responses to editorials that criticized him.

The constitutional protection against compelled publication does not disappear when we move from print to the internet, or from a news outlet to a website that invites users to post their own opinions. As Justice Brett Kavanaugh noted when he was a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, “the Government may not…tell Twitter or YouTube what videos to post” or “tell Facebook or Google what content to favor.”

Yet that is what H.B. 20 purports to do. The law says “social media platforms” with more than 50 million active monthly users in the U.S. may not “censor” content based on the “viewpoint” it expresses. That edict covers any effort to “block, ban, remove, deplatform, demonetize, de-boost, restrict, deny equal access or visibility to, or otherwise discriminate against expression.”

H.B. 20 makes a few exceptions, including “expression that directly incites criminal activity” and “specific threats of violence” that target people based on their membership in certain protected categories. But otherwise the rule’s reach is vast: As two trade organizations note in a federal lawsuit they filed last week, H.B. 20 “would unconstitutionally require platforms like YouTube and Facebook to disseminate, for example, pro-Nazi speech, terrorist propaganda, foreign government disinformation, and medical misinformation.””

The Texas GOP’s border wall fantasy

“It’s also not clear whether Abbott can use disaster funds to pay for the wall under Texas state law. He declared a disaster for 34 counties in the state last month due to a recent increase in unauthorized immigration at the border, freeing up resources to deal with the problem and allowing him to suspend state laws and regulations that would impede any solutions.”

“the current levels of unauthorized immigration might not truly constitute a “disaster.” While officials reported that the number of migrant apprehensions at the border in May was nearly eight times the total in the same month last year, that doesn’t necessarily mean the actual number of migrants trying to cross the border is higher.
Those numbers don’t account for the fact that there has been a surge in adults who have been caught trying to cross the border multiple times due to policies enacted during the pandemic. In 2020, 26 percent of migrants apprehended by Border Patrol had been caught more than once, compared to 7 percent the previous year.”

““A governor should not be able to circumvent the legislative process by declaring such matters to be emergencies and then implementing whatever measures he wishes,” state Rep. John Turner (D-Dallas), told the Texas Tribune. “If a governor can commence such a long-term, multi-hundred-million-dollar public works project under the cover of emergency powers, it is difficult to know what the limits of those powers are.””

“Abbott’s plans to arrest migrants at the border on various criminal charges, including trespassing and vandalism, would also likely face legal challenges if implemented.

Abbott has threatened to put such migrants “in jail for a long time,” but legal precedent isn’t on his side: The Supreme Court prevented Arizona Republicans in 2012 from similarly arresting migrants on trespassing charges, on the basis that states cannot enforce immigration law. It’s possible, however, that the 2012 ruling could be overturned with several new Trump-appointed justices on the Court.”

“Abbott and the Texas GOP’s embrace of a border wall seems to be part of their strategy for the 2022 midterm elections. Abbott is also up for reelection in 2022, but some have also suggested he could be setting up a run for president in 2024.

The Texas Republicans appear to be trying to appeal to their right-wing base in order to fend off potential primary challengers. There isn’t much concern about Democrats launching a serious offense in the general given that the party’s promises of Texas turning blue didn’t come to fruition in 2020.

Republicans in the state have also recently passed legislation aiming to fire up their base that removed the requirement of a permit to carry a handgun and established an effective ban on abortion. And Abbott’s agenda for an upcoming special session of the state legislature involves more items related to border security, restrictions on voting, and preventing the teaching of critical race theory in schools.”

“while there has been pushback from border counties and Democratic officials, the majority of Republican voters in Texas do support building the wall: about 74 percent, according to a recent survey by the Dallas Morning News and UT Tyler.”

Greg Abbott’s Border Wall Plan Is Doomed To Fail

“Abbott has so far provided little information about how he will finance the project, which will undoubtedly carry a hefty price tag. In Texas, one section of Trump’s border wall came out to be $27 million a mile. Abbott intends to provide $250 million in state revenues as a “down payment.” Those funds will come from a disaster account, a transfer made possible because he issued a disaster declaration in order to take a number of executive actions against migration. Abbott also expects that crowdfunding will help supplement state funds. So far, that effort has collected roughly $450,000.

David Donatti, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas who specializes in border issues, has concerns about Abbott’s financial approach.

“He has declared a disaster, and by that authority, he’s moving $250 million into an account that allows him to” build a border wall, says Donatti. “For a state like Texas,” $250 million “is a lot of money…that could be used for hurricane recovery, toward recovery from something like the freeze that we experienced.” Donatti calls it “an absurd abuse of power if nothing else,” even though the result of that abuse would provide “an ineffective solution to people coming to the United States.”

According to the governor, construction would also hinge on voluntary land concessions from borderlands residents. In Texas, most land along the border with Mexico is privately owned. That gives Abbott two options: either entice landowners to donate their property or seize it from the unwilling. To build his wall, Trump chose to initiate land grabs in the borderlands through eminent domain, which is a legal doctrine that allows the government to seize private property for public use. Affected landowners nominally must receive just compensation, though practically the process is rife with abuse.”

“Regardless of the wall’s future, Abbott is already implementing policies beyond a physical barrier to keep migrants out. As Reason’s Billy Binion reported, Abbott “has directed the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDJC) to clear out the Dolph Biscoe Unit, a state prison in Dilley, Texas, so that law enforcement can arrest and detain some undocumented migrants there.” He’s made it so that migrants are subject to “aggravated trespassing” charges, a misdemeanor, giving the state the authority to arrest migrants who are otherwise governed by federal immigration frameworks. As Donatti points out, that “quite clearly tramples on the federal government’s prerogative to immigration control.” Abbott has also revoked licenses for child care services found to be looking after undocumented migrant kids, which might lead to those minors being shuttled into inadequate emergency detention facilities.”