‘Political Circus’: Democrats mock Greg Abbott after he asks for donations to continue transporting immigrants

On Sunday, Governor Greg Abbott appeared on Fox News promoting a program he has been pushing for weeks: sending immigrants entering Texas to Washington, DC, by charter bus.

But this time, Abbott asked Texans to personally contribute their own money to pay for the trips.

The decision to crowdfund free bus rides for migrants is a new development since he initially announced on April 6 that it would be paid for by Texas taxpayers. At the time, Abbott proudly presented the trips as an act of anti-immigration defiance against the Biden administration.

But the shift from asking private donors to pay for charter buses comes as his plan has been increasingly hailed as an act of generosity by Democrats, immigration rights groups and even immigrants riding in the buses. buses, while those further to the right of Abbott politically have criticized it as a misuse of taxpayer dollars that incentivizes immigrants to cross into Texas.

“Congratulations to Governor Abbott,” Texas Rep. Gene Wu said Tuesday in a cheep. “Word will get out from community to community that if he can get to Texas, the Governor will pay to transport him anywhere in the US.”

Abbott announced the charter bus plan earlier this month as a way to get President Joe Biden’s attention in response to the president’s announcement that he would lift Title 42, a pandemic-era health order that allowed immigration authorities at the border deny entry to migrants as a way to contain the coronavirus. Officials have said repeal of the policy will likely be followed by a sharp rise in illegal border crossings.

“Securing the border would cost Texas nothing if the federal government was doing its job, but because Joe Biden is not securing the border, the state of Texas has to step up and spend Texas taxpayer money to do the job. federal government job,” Abbott said at the time. He later clarified that the bus rides would be completely voluntary for the migrants after they have been processed by US immigration officials.

Abbott’s office did not respond to multiple questions about the policy, including why the governor is now asking for private donations, whether the plan will be partially or exclusively funded by private donations, and how much has been raised to date. On the state-hosted website that accepts transportation funds, the current donation count only says “TBD” as of April 13.

In a statement to The Texas Tribune on Wednesday, Abbott press secretary Renae Eze said the idea for the crowdsourcing came after Abbott’s office received calls from supporters who wanted to contribute.

“After Governor Abbott announced his plan to bus migrants to President Biden’s backyard in Washington, DC, we received an outpouring of support from across our state and across the country from people who wanted to help and donate. for the operation,” he said. “Texas continues to step up to the plate to help our local partners and protect Texans; It’s time for President Biden and Congress to step up and do their job to protect our border.”

Mark Jones, a political science professor at Rice University, said the governor may be trying to escape backlash.

“I think it’s a low-key way to shield himself from criticism that he’s using taxpayer money to provide free transportation to undocumented immigrants,” Jones said. “A lot of conservatives pounced on him like a hat and no cattle, in the sense that he was talking tough, but in the end all his transportation was going to do was provide a free ride for undocumented immigrants to the East Coast who otherwise they would have had to pay. or that liberal non-profits would have had to pay.”

Abbott’s office has said that at least 10 buses have arrived in the nation’s capital, but his office has not provided the costs of the trips or the total number of migrants who have been transported.

During the 30-hour bus ride, passengers received meals, the migrants said. Many of the bus passengers said they had saved thousands of dollars just to get to the border and had little money left when they arrived in Texas.

“We are very grateful for all the help you have given us,” Ordalis Heras, a 26-year-old asylum seeker from Venezuela, told the Tribune earlier this month, hours after arriving in Washington on the first Abbott bus from Del Rio. . Heras, like many other passengers, intended to travel to North Texas anyway.

“Frankly, we didn’t have the money to get here otherwise, so we’re very grateful for the help,” he said.

The New York Times also reported this week that Abbott buses are now dropping off immigrants in Alabama, Georgia and North Carolina.

This is not the first time that Abbott has sought private contributions to fund its border priorities.

Last year, Abbott began a crowdsourcing effort for its multimillion-dollar plan to build a wall on the Texas-Mexico border. As of this month, the effort has raised only about $55 million, most of which came from a Wyoming-based billionaire.

The Biden administration has said building the wall cost taxpayers $46 million per mile in some areas along the border.

Tony Payan, director of the Center for the United States and Mexico at Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, said that regardless of the motivation, Abbott’s bus program will have little overall impact on the problems facing immigrants at the border. .

“It’s a political circus,” Payan said. “It’s not going to have any impact on conditions on the ground.”

Disclosure: Rice University, Rice University’s Baker Institute for Public Policy, and the New York Times have all financially supported The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations, and corporate sponsors. Financial sponsors play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. Find a full list of them here.

This article originally appeared in The Texas Tribune at https://www.texastribune.org/2022/04/28/texas-migrants-bus-washington-dc/.

The Texas Tribune is a member-supported, nonpartisan newsroom that informs and engages Texans in state politics and policy. Learn more at texastribune.org.

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