Eagle Pass sees convoys, Republican governors gather to call for border security

Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the Biden administration’s immigration policies as a bipartisan deal makes its way through Congress.

By Sarah AschFebruary 5, 2024 3:42 pm,

On Sunday, a convoy of trucks, campers, cars and vans arrived in Quemado, Texas, about 20 miles north of Eagle Pass. These were largely conservative folks who’d come from around the country for a rally calling to secure the southern border. The same kinds of rallies also happened in California and Arizona.

The pilgrimage and presentation that followed was meant to be a show of support for Gov. Greg Abbott and Operation Lone Star, the state’s multi-billion dollar border security initiative that has created major conflict with the Biden administration. Gov. Abbott was in Eagle Pass proper on Sunday with 13 other Republican governors.

Texas Public Radio’s David Martin Davies has been covering all this, and he joined Texas Standard to share what he saw. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Yesterday Gov. Abbott spoke at Shelby Park in Eagle Pass. What did he have to say?

David Martin Davies: Abbott continued with his tough talk about border security. He and the baker’s dozen of fellow Republican governors gathered at the Eagle Pass city park that’s become the center of this unprecedented dispute between a state and the federal government over who’s going to control the border.

Gov. Greg Abbott (recording): Half of the governors of the United States have joined with Texas in our cause, to make sure states can do everything possible to secure our border. Half of the governors that have joined the cause to support Texas are joining us at this event today, and we are here to send a loud and clear message that we are banding together to fight, to ensure that we will be able to maintain our constitutional guarantee that states will be able to defend against any type of imminent danger or invasion that has been threatened by Joe Biden and his abject refusal to enforce the immigration laws of the United States of America.

To be clear, President Biden is not refusing to enforce the immigration laws of the United States. And this is, you know, hyperbolic political talking points. Many constitutional experts say Abbott’s reading of the Constitution is wrong on this, and the courts have found that Texas is not facing an invasion or threat of harm from these immigrants.

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Did you get a chance to talk to any locals while you were down there? Did you get a feel about how they felt with the convoy coming to town?

Yeah, I spoke to quite a few, and depends on who you talk to. But many told me that they were more afraid this weekend of the mega convoy than they were of the migrants.

Others are mad that they have actually lost their city park, Shelby Park, to Operation Lone Star, and they want it back. There is a weekend flea market that happens right across the street from Shelby Park. It went on as usual this weekend. One vendor that I spoke to, he told me he thought the whole thing from Gov. Abbott was political theater.

Vendor (recording): I think that’s just politic, because if I don’t know if they’re all here, you go like half a mile south. There’s the wall and there’s another gate and nobody’s there. And the gate is open. So you can go north and you can see people still crossing across. 

So he just thought it was all theater.

I know there were some concerns about violence this weekend, given some of the rhetoric that accompanied this convoy. Did anything like that happen?

Well, there was some conflicts. At least one person was arrested that I’m aware of.

But there was a bank robbery in Eagle Pass on Friday. Some say the suspect could be part of the convoy. I am trying to get more information on that, but I don’t think this is what Abbott was talking about when he said we needed to protect the banks of the Rio Grande.

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Can you put this into the context of the election cycle that’s revving up? How do events like this play into the 2024 presidential race and other high profile races?

Well, every election cycle we see this coming from the right wing media. They talk about caravans. They talk about the immigration crisis. And this is falls right into that pattern.

We know that on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., a bipartisan deal was struck with the Senate to create a stricter border policy – harder immigration policies – that would make it easier and quicker for the government to turn away asylum seeker migrants who cross the southern border. So it’s just a fact that the current asylum laws that we have are written a long time ago, and they’re not equipped to deal with what we have today. President Biden has promised to sign this into law if it gets passed through the Republican-controlled House.

Republicans in the Senate say this is the best deal that they’re ever going to get that does not include a pathway to citizenship. But Republicans in the House are against it because this would take immigration off the board as an issue in the presidential election and give Biden a big win even though it does solve what Abbott is calling a “clear and present danger to America.”

I did ask some Trump supporters in Eagle Pass what they thought about this Senate deal. They didn’t like it because they just don’t trust anything that Biden does.

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