As migrant apprehensions rise, Abbott slams Biden immigration policies in border appearance

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Gov. Greg Abbott criticized the Biden Administration's approach to border security at a press conference at Anzalduas Park in Mission on March 9, 2021. Credit: Jason Garza for The Texas Tribune

Saying the Biden administration’s border policies make it clear that the president doesn’t care about Americans, Gov. Greg Abbott on Tuesday declared that the border is in a crisis and accused the president of aiding cartels and human smugglers.

“He does not care about Americans. He cares more about people who are not from this country” said Abbott, who spoke in front of a wall of Texas Department of Public Safety vehicles parked near the banks of the Rio Grande in Mission.

Abbott’s news conference came as the Biden administration is struggling to come to terms with a rapid influx of undocumented immigrants arriving at the border, seeking a friendlier welcome compared to the previous administration’s hardline approach.

On Saturday, Abbott announced the beginning of Operation Lone Star, which he said would deploy more resources from the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to the border to secure the area.

The Biden administration has acknowledged that the increase in migrants coming to the border is, in part, a result of new policies intended to be more humane toward migrants and asylum seekers. That’s especially true of unaccompanied minors, said White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki.

“Humanity will always be a value,” she said during a press briefing Tuesday. “What we’re really talking about in terms of the people who are being let in are unaccompanied children. That is a policy decision which we made because we felt it was the most humane approach to addressing what are very difficult circumstances in the region.”

Since before the November 2020 election, the number of migrants apprehended on the border has increased significantly. From October through January, more than 296,000 undocumented immigrants have been apprehended. That's more than half of the 458,000 apprehended during the entire 2020 federal fiscal year, according to federal statistics.

On Tuesday, Abbott said Biden’s policies were instead aiding criminal elements who prey on migrants in Mexico by giving them more potential victims.

“The Biden administration is helping the cartels make more money and grow more power,” he said.

Abbott’s announcement comes as the state is still grappling with the fallout from last month’s winter storm. In a statement, Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said Tuesday’s press event was an attempt to distract from that issue and demonize immigrants.

“Abbott is desperately trying to change the focus from his most recent failures that left Texans dead last month — and many more with enormously high electricity bills that range into the tens of thousands of dollars for less than a week of power," Hinojosa said.