WASHINGTON — With Title 42 due, Gov. Greg Abbott deployed 450 more National Guard troops to the border on Monday, a move the White House denounced as a stunt that will only worsen a looming crisis.
“President Biden is rolling out a welcome mat for people all over the world, saying the US border is wide open,” Abbott said, announcing a new Texas Tactical Border Force.
He accused President Joe Biden of “collaborating” with smuggling cartels and said Texas was “undermined” and “overrun by our own federal government.”
The White House took a negative view of the deployment, which occurred without warning, and of the governor’s rhetoric which included describing the situation as a “crisis caused by Biden”.
“There is a way to handle these types of announcements and the governor knows it,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “This is coordinating with federal authorities, something he refuses to do.”
Instead, he said, Abbott’s “first call” on border policies is usually to Fox News.
When Texas began sending migrants out of the state, the first buses dropped off passengers near the US Capitol. The conservative news network has been alerted. The Biden administration was not.
Abbott also gave Fox News an interview on the tarmac Monday at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, where he inspected Guardsmen in tactical gear, carrying rifles before heading to El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley.
Last week, Biden ordered 1,500 more troops to the southern border to free up border agents ahead of a surge expected to begin after Thursday when Title 42 expires.
Then-President Donald Trump invoked that emergency public health power at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to allow for the swift deportation of migrants. As of March 2020, it has been used more than 2.7 million times.
Backlogs are expected to grow rapidly once cleared.
National security officials said border gatherings could reach 10,000 a day, double the number in March.
Abbott cited an estimate of 13,000 a day. And he extrapolated to say that in the next year, the United States could have 4.7 million new immigrants entering illegally, more than the population of Chicago and about the same as that of Harris County.
Those figures are dating, though. Most of these migrants are arrested and deported. Many try repeatedly. So the figures are greater than the number of people trying to enter illegally.
The new Texas unit is tasked with intercepting, turning back and turning back migrants at border “hot spots,” Abbott said over the din of military planes.
He boasted that no state has ever done more to defend its international border, touting Operation Lone Star, a multibillion-dollar effort using the National Guard and state public safety officers.
“For him, it’s just political theatre. It’s not really about addressing this issue. It’s about creating more chaos. It’s about creating more confusion at the border,” said Jean-Pierre.
The Biden administration has long argued that Title 42 cannot replace immigration policy. Texas sued in April 2022 when the federal government sought to roll back the rule.
The World Health Organization declared an end to the pandemic last week. Biden signed a bill ending the American emergency on April 10.
On Monday, Jean-Pierre lambasted congressional Republicans for failing to fill the vacuum everyone saw coming.
“We are using the tools in front of us to address this issue. Republican officials want to do something else, ”she said.“ They want to campaign on this issue. They want to do political stunts. This is what we are seeing from the governor of Texas.
Texas used a trespassing crime to arrest unauthorized immigrants.
Abbott also resumed inspections of commercial trucks on Tuesday, although the trawl had already eased by Monday after causing delays of up to 26 hours in Brownsville. Abbott used the tactic in April 2022 and again this past summer, bringing attention to his grievances about federal border failures while also prompting grievances about lost trade.
The tension is high. Eight people were killed at a bus stop in front of a migrant shelter in Brownsville.
The driver who hit them was charged with manslaughter. Police have not cited a motive so far, but migrant advocates say antagonism is simmering and suspect it is a hate crime.
Screenwriter Aarón Torres contributed from Austin.