Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the National Guard and the state police to begin apprehending migrants who illegally cross the border from Mexico and taking them back to ports of entry, a move that could put the state into direct conflict with the federal government over immigration, reported The New York Times.
Mr. Abbott, in a statement, said the goal was to return “illegal immigrants to the border to stop this criminal enterprise endangering our communities.”
The order, which significantly expanded the potential activity of Guard troops and state police personnel along the border, came amid mounting pressure on Mr. Abbott from conservatives and Republicans to take even more drastic action to address the record number of arrivals from Mexico. Federal agents recorded 240,000 crossings in May, the majority of those in Texas, though recently the daily numbers have gone down slightly, an official said, citing internal data.
This week, Texas officials from counties at or near the border have called on the governor to act, and the lieutenant governor, Dan Patrick, has urged Mr. Abbott to have state law enforcement personnel “put hands on people and send them back,” likening the numbers of migrants arriving in Mexico to the attack on Pearl Harbor during World War II.
Republicans outside Texas have also pushed Mr. Abbott. “Texas should just send them back across the border,” Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida said during a news conference last month.
Immigration has historically been the purview of the federal government, and states have refrained from seeking to enforce federal immigration laws themselves, particularly after a Supreme Court ruling a decade ago knocked down an effort by Arizona to do so.
Mr. Abbott has so far stopped short of what many of his conservative critics have called for: a formal declaration of an “invasion” that, proponents argue, would allow the governor to seize war powers and have state law enforcement personnel not only take migrants back to the border but directly deport them.
Indeed, the first criticisms of his order came not from immigration advocates or civil rights groups but from a former top Department of Homeland Security official under the Trump administration, Ken Cuccinelli, who implied that the governor’s order did not go far enough. Mr. Cuccinelli has been actively calling for Mr. Abbott to make the invasion declaration.
“The governor does not appear to formally declare an invasion nor direct the National Guard and Department of Public Safety to remove illegals across the border directly to Mexico,” read a joint statement from Mr. Cuccinelli and Russ Vought, the president of the Center for Renewing America, a conservative nonprofit group. “That is critical. Otherwise this is still catch and release.”
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