The Biden administration announced last week the order would end on May 23. That’s sparked praise from civil rights organizations and many Democrats, but also fierce pushback from Republicans and some moderate Democrats who argue the administration doesn’t have enough of a plan to handle the expected increase in migrants at the border.
Abbott’s announcement took widespread Republican criticism of the move a step further. And the governor said the plan to transport migrants out of Texas was one of a number of steps he intends to take.
“To help local officials whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants who are being dropped off by the administration, Texas is providing charter buses to send these illegal immigrants who have been dropped off by the Biden Administration to Washington, DC,” Abbott said during a news conference Wednesday along the US-Mexico border in Weslaco, Texas.
Critics lambasted the announcement as a political stunt and pointed out that the governor is up for reelection.
Abbott emphasized, in a Fox News interview Thursday morning, that only immigrants who volunteer to be transported to Washington would be sent there, or it “would be kidnapping, even though it would be by a law enforcement agency.”
“What better place for them to go to than the steps of the United States Capitol?” Abbott said to Fox News. “They get to see the wonderful Capitol, but also get closer to the people who are making these policies that are allowing people to come to the border illegally.”
The state has assembled a pool of up to 900 buses for the operation, according to Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, who joined the governor Wednesday.
Generally, migrants released from federal custody after crossing the border have been processed and given paperwork allowing them to remain in the country temporarily but ordering them to appear in immigration court to make their case. Many are seeking asylum.
They are often released in Texas and other border states, and then continue on journeys to other parts of the country.
“That’s more than a half a million illegal immigrants every single month from more than 150 different countries across the globe,” the governor said Wednesday. “That’s far beyond what Homeland Security Secretary Johnson said was a crisis. It is unprecedented and dangerous.”
Also on Wednesday, Abbott signed what he called a “zero-tolerance policy” for unsafe vehicles used to smuggle migrants across the border and said that it will be implemented immediately. The governor claims the policy is a byproduct of cartel crossings at the border and noted there may be more stopping of traffic from Mexico into Texas for vehicle inspections.
The busing and unsafe vehicle policies will be added to Operation Lone Star, and Abbott said more directives will be announced next week.
CNN’s Catherine E. Shoichet, Rebekah Riess, Priscilla Alvarez and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.