Shortly after Governor Greg Abbott announced in April that he would bus asylum-seekers from Texas to Washington, D.C. in what critics called a knee-jerk stunt to pump poll numbers against challenger Beto O’Rourke ahead of the upcoming election, Texas state Representative Gene Wu of Houston mocked the governor in a Tweet: “This was a well thought-out [sic] plan with no easily foreseeable unintended consequences.”
In late July, after authorizing law enforcement to return migrants to ports of entry, Abbott began sending refugees to New York City. (If shipping migrants to the nation’s capital was a volley in a federal-state showdown, extending the campaign to a liberal city with no connection to national immigration enforcement was a mere “screw you,” an attention-grabbing ploy.)
“We’ve got to secure our border because the Biden administration is not securing it,” Abbott said over the weekend, doubling down on the strategy. “The reason why we began putting people on buses in the first place is because the Biden administration [was] dumping migrants off in small little towns of 10 or 25,000 people, and they were completely overwhelmed.”
Abbott’s weaponizing of the refugee crisis to score cheap political points will surely backfire. With his apathy toward rape victims forced to bring pregnancies to term and indifference toward the grieving families in Uvalde, Texans have long understood that the governor lacks empathy for many of his constituents. Now that the governor has taken his cruelty and lies about an “open border” on the road, he can forget about any White House aspirations. Abbott’s bully antics may impress the Republican base, but the country doesn’t want a sadist as president.
When buses arrived at New York’s Port Authority, Mayor Eric Adams greeted migrants who had recently arrived from Texas—an act of empathy our own governor is seemingly incapable of in any consistent and meaningful way.
“Unlike the governor of Texas, who did what I believe is anti-American, I did just the opposite,” Adams said. “Those asylum-seekers were happy to hear that the mayor of the city of New York was standing there saying, ‘We’re going to treat you with dignity.’”
“Abbott thinks it’s good policy to dehumanize asylum-seekers. He treats people like cattle.”
Murad Awawdeh, executive director of the New York Immigration Coalition, greeted asylum-seekers as they stepped off the buses. His group and others provided masks, water, food, clothes, and toothpaste. Strangers stuffed $20 bills in the migrants’ hands. He said that New Yorkers have welcomed immigrants for decades.
“Abbott thinks it’s good policy to dehumanize asylum-seekers,” Awawdeh told me. “He treats people like cattle. At the very least, he should coordinate with officials here, not send out a press release as the buses arrived.”
Awawdeh recalled meeting a disoriented Venezuelan man as he disembarked at the Port Authority after traveling 45 hours from the Texas border on an Abbott bus. The man told Awawdeh he has family in San Antonio, but officials rounding up migrants never offered the option to travel within the state. Awawdeh promised he would arrange transportation back to San Antonio. He estimated that about half of the occupants from a recent bus had final destinations elsewhere, like New Orleans and the Carolinas—hundreds of miles closer to Texas.
As a retort, Adams has pledged to send a busload of New Yorkers to knock on doors and get out the vote against Abbott in November.
Abbott shot back with an anti-Semitic dog whistle.
“We will explain to our fellow Texans that the Beto campaign is being aided by a bunch of New Yorkers in addition to George Soros,” Abbott said on Fox News.
In June, the NBC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth obtained state records reporting that each transport costs about $1,400 per passenger. Though he promised the buses would all be paid for by donations, even outspoken hardcore xenophobes apparently don’t support Abbott’s scheme with their own money. According to the governor’s website, the program has raised less than $170,000 since April. So far, the state has shipped more than 8,000 migrants to Washington D.C. and New York.
Texas taxpayers will likely pay for his bussing just like they are pissing away billions on Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, the governor’s anti-migration enforcement plan which has not stopped illegal border crossings. Despite Abbott’s claims the federal government’s border enforcement is lax and the president isn’t doing anything about it, President Joe Biden wants to increase the Department of Homeland Security’s budget by $6.5 billion next fiscal year and recruit more immigration judges to clear a backlog of nearly 1.7 million asylum cases. The budget of Customs and Border Protection, the agency tasked with border enforcement, is also set to increase beyond its Trump-era limits, further flooding South Texas with military tech and hundreds of new border agents. DHS and CBP are part and parcel of the out-of-control Department of Defense budget that is more than $800 billion per annum with no restraint in sight.
If Abbott actually gave a damn about human suffering as faithful Christians purport to, he would request donations to help feed and shelter migrants in Texas—not put them out on the streets of New York. He’d likely receive millions in donations to help in such an effort.
“He’s irresponsible,” Mayor Adams said shortly after meeting Abbott’s refugees. “For him to have people who just went through a devastating moment, crossing the border coming to this land of the free, home of the brave, and then place them on buses, even if they wanted to go to a different location. … I don’t think he’s doing anything more than exposing the type of individual that he is. There is nothing successful about treating people with a lack of dignity.”
At least in the short term, refugees are better off in New York, where they receive an American welcome and the necessities for living the mayor promised, including medical care, education, legal assistance, and maybe even a job. A city where asylum-seekers are less likely to face political exploitation from nationalist politicians or a cold-hearted governor hell-bent on brutish expediency.