Texas had bused about 10,400 immigrants to New York, DC, and Chicago as of Sept. 9, Abbott said in a statement. And on Thursday, the governor said two buses of immigrants from Texas arrived outside of Vice President Kamala Harris’s residence at the US Naval Observatory in DC. The people on the buses came from several countries, including Guyana, Nicaragua, and Venezuela.
Many of these immigrants are fleeing extreme poverty and violence in their home countries.
It was the latest tactic by Abbott, who is up for reelection and banking on a tough immigration platform to win. Last year, he launched Operation Lone Star, which ordered Texas National Guard troops to arrest undocumented immigrants at the border on state trespassing charges. More recently as part of the operation, Abbott had the state National Guard start apprehending people suspected of being undocumented immigrants who had managed to evade Border Patrol and driving them to a US Customs and Border Protection port of entry.
But Abel Nuñez, executive director of the Central American Resource Center, one of the organizations helping immigrants who were dropped off at DC’s Union Station, said Abbott might actually be having unintended consequences.
“Most immigrants on the buses are really happy and thankful for the governor’s free bus ride,” Nuñez said in a recent interview. “It’s counterintuitive. Yes, Abbott is making a point, sure, but this will encourage people on the buses to tell their networks back home, ‘Hey, go to Texas.'”
It wouldn’t be the first time Abbott’s attempt at immigration enforcement has proven to be counterproductive. In December, BuzzFeed News reported that Operation Lone Star had inadvertently helped asylum-seekers. Had some of the immigrants been detained by Border Patrol agents instead of state troopers, they would’ve been subject to Title 42 and immediately sent back to Mexico or their home countries based on their nationalities. But because they were facing state charges and held in local jails, the immigrants were able to access asylum proceedings that Title 42 would have blocked them from.
In May, Arizona joined Texas in sending buses of immigrants to DC as well. In a statement, Ducey said that with Arizona resources under demand and little or no assistance from the federal government, the state would voluntarily give asylum-seekers transportation to DC.
In the case of Florida, DeSantis appears to be offering free plane rides and has become the latest governor to send immigrants and asylum-seekers to so-called sanctuary jurisdictions after taking credit for flying at least 50 Venezuelans to Martha’s Vineyard.
“We are not a sanctuary state, and it’s better to be able to go to a sanctuary jurisdiction, and, yes, we will help facilitate that transport for you to be able to go to greener pastures,” DeSantis said at a news conference. “Every community in America should be sharing in the burdens. It shouldn’t all fall on a handful of red states.”