Gov. Greg Abbott has directed the Texas Division of Emergency Management to transport migrants to Washington, D.C, even dropping them off at the steps of the U.S. Capitol. Abbot made the announcement at a news conference at the Texas border on Wednesday
Valerie Gonzalez is a reporter for The Monitor in the Rio Grande Valley. She told Texas Standard that the announcement comes after the Biden administration said it will be ending a public health order that turned asylum seekers away at the border during the pandemic because of health concerns. Abbott is also saying inspections of vehicles arriving from Mexican ports of entry will include enhanced safety inspections. Some mayors along the border are concerned about the economic impact of that order. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: We should say, the governor’s letter says migrants would be transported on a voluntary basis. But you report many are already concerned about that idea.
Valerie Gonzalez: There is a concern about whether migrants will know if it is on a voluntary basis. There’s obviously a language barrier for many who don’t understand English. There were no logistics explained as to what the process will be to coordinate those efforts, whether the state will be working with the federal government on this, or how it’s going to look on the ground.
I spoke to one of the leaders of the NGO organizations down here in the Valley. She wasn’t advised either of the logistics or of the plan by the state of Texas, and she plays a pivotal role in helping migrants who are released from federal custody enter into the country in a in a safe way. And she wasn’t aware of the details as well. Yet yesterday, the governor said that they were going to start working on that this week.
Now the governor says he’s reacting this way because there is a significant increase in migrant crossings expected after the lifting of Title 42. Do we know how steep – or to use the governor’s word – unprecedented that increase might really be.
It’s really unknown how many migrants will be entering the country once it is lifted, but it does appear that there are thousands upon thousands who have been waiting for over two years for this policy to lift. This was always going to be a temporary measure and it was always going to end because it is a public health measure, not an immigration policy. And therefore, people have been waiting for it to go away so that asylum can once again resume. But it’s hard to know how many will be crossing. DHS has projections that range from 6,000 to 18,000 a day. But those are just some projections that they have made so that they can formulate some kind of contingency plans. But that doesn’t really mean that we will be getting that many.
So we’ve talked about the part of Governor Abbott’s plan that would move migrants outside of Texas. Governor Abbott is also saying inspections of vehicles arriving from Mexican ports of entry will be subject to enhanced safety inspections that has others concerned about economic impacts, I guess.
Yes, we spoke to the McAllen mayor yesterday, and he was telling us about how he had just put out a video last week asking residents to reach out to their lawmakers, asking them for immigration reform because he’s concerned about what will happen once Title 42 goes away. And he said that while he accepts all the help that the governor wants to propose, there is also a concern about what the consequences will be on the economy if you slow down the traffic coming in from Mexico. It could hurt the economy, just all over the country because we have so much coming through here. We have so many commercial vehicles coming through here to take products into the United States or vice versa – although this will only affect the inbound traffic that he is very concerned about what that will mean for an economy that is still trying to recover since the pandemic.
Am I right that this is just phase one of the governor’s plan? Is there more in the works and do we know what to expect?
We don’t know exactly what we will be hearing next week. The governor did say that this is only phase one, but many people thought that perhaps Texas was going to join the lawsuit that exists against the CDC spearheaded in Louisiana. And there’s two other states involved, and perhaps the state of Texas is considering either joining or amending the current lawsuit that they have against the federal government to make the same kind of argument to keep Title 42 in place. That is a possibility. The governor didn’t really make any hints yesterday, but he did say that this is just the first set of a two pronged process,
Have we heard a response from Washington yet on all of this?
I haven’t I haven’t heard anything personally. But I’m sure that they’ll be forced to respond to it since they say the state is making these incursions onto federal authorities, like bridge management and immigration. So we will have to see how it plays out.