Texas Republican Governor Gregg Abbott is unfortunately well known for his controversial actions against migrants.
Claiming that Texas is the victim of an invasion, Abbott has irresponsibly sent migrants to other states (in one case I witnessed, a group arrived in Washington, DC in a frigid early morning in T-shirts and shorts); he has deployed the Texas Guard and made “emergency” declarations to justify his inhumane anti-immigrant policies.
In another of their perverse initiatives, officers working for Abbott’s border security initiative “were ordered to push young children and infants back into the Rio Grande, and told not to give asylum applicants water even in extreme heat,” according to a report by the Houston Chronicle.
As if that were not enough, just a few days ago, Abbott decided to build his “floating wall”: buoys with barbed wire along the Rio Grande, to deter migrants from trying to enter the United States illegally.
A group of 87 Democratic lawmakers, led by Texans Joaquín Castro and Verónica Escobar, asked President Biden in a letter to do something to stop what they called a “horrific abuse of power.”
Fortunately, President Biden paid attention and this week filed a civil lawsuit against Texas because the Republican governor has built the floating barrier without the federal authorization that is legally required under the Rivers and Harbors Act. The lawsuit seeks to ban construction of the barrier and require the state to remove it.
The lawsuit, filed in Texas Western District Court, contends that Texas has violated federal law, that the floating wall is a threat to navigation and public safety, that it has provoked diplomatic protests by Mexico, and that the risk of harming the foreign policy of the United States.
Unsurprisingly, Abbott responded to the lawsuit by challenging President Biden to face off in federal court. “If he really cares about human life, he needs to start enforcing federal immigration laws. By doing so, you can help me prevent migrants from betting their lives on the waters of the Rio Grande. You can also help me save Texans, and indeed all Americans, from deadly drugs like fentanyl, cartel violence, and the horrors of human trafficking,” Abbott wrote to Biden.
Abbott’s letter to Biden suggests that his anti-immigrant strategy has been a success since it was implemented 2 years ago.
But the reality is that the so-called “Operation Lone Star” has been a resounding failure, despite having a budget of 9.5 billion dollars until 2025. An investigation by The Wall Street Journal found that the areas of the Texas- Mexico covered by Abbott operatives have had “the fastest increases in illegal crossings.”
The lawsuit against Abbott is a first step to clarify whether Texas has the right to violate federal law, but it must also be investigated whether the civil rights of migrants were violated. For its part, the Biden administration must take seriously its commitment to alleviate the causes that promote migration, such as poverty, violence, gangs and lack of democracy. Or else we will continue to witness a grotesque spectacle of mutual accusations.