Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott went on a national media tour to blame the undocumented community for spreading COVID-19, in the latest move to present him as a social conservative.
“The Biden administration has been releasing immigrants in South Texas that have been exposing Texas to COVID,” he said on CNBC.
It was one of many appearances he made late last week all with the same gist: “The Biden administration must stop importing COVID into our country.”
While the xenophobic comments caused immediate uproar, they are in line with Abbott’s multiple deployments of National Guard troops to prevent border crossings, and his anti-sanctuary city laws.
When a city declares itself a “sanctuary city” it does so with the intentions to not work with federal deportation efforts.
“Under this new law, if you have a public official, including a sheriff who continues to adopt sanctuary city policies after this ban goes into place, they can be criminally prosecuted and themselves wind up in jail,” he told Fox and Friends in 2017.
Supporters of sanctuary cities, however, argue they encourage undocumented victims of crime to come forward.
Abbott knows that. He said so in 2005.
“Many, who are victimized, were sometimes reluctant to speak up,” he told a packed audience at a national forum on fraud against the undocumented held in Austin.
“(They’re) fearful sometimes that speaking out may cost their family the dream of a successful future that could otherwise be filled with opportunity.”
His recent comments on immigration stand in dramatic contrast for people who remember Abbott’s work as attorney general more than a decade ago.
Unlike Gov. Abbott, Attorney General Abbott spent significant resources and time fighting for the undocumented.
“The things he’s saying now — about sanctuary cities and law enforcement not working with federal authorities to deport undocumented immigrants — he could have been accused of 10 years ago, and when he was Attorney General for doing just that,” said John Owens, deputy chief of the consumer protection division for the Attorney General’s office until 2011.
“And so it’s hypocrisy at its finest,” said Owens.
Owens and others from that period said protecting immigrants — often undocumented — from fraud was a major priority for Abbott that lasted a decade.
“We helped a lot of people and prevented a lot of fraud,” said Owens.