Texas takes new border measures; former Trump officials want more


FILE – Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference, March 10, 2022, in Weslaco, Texas. Former Trump administration officials are pressuring Abbott to declare an ‘invasion’ along the US-Mexico border as justification for giving thousands of state troopers and National Guard members new powers to turn back migrants. Abbott says he will announce Wednesday, April 6, 2022, “unprecedented actions” to deter migrants from coming to Texas but did not give details. (Joel Martinez/The Monitor via AP, File)


Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued new orders along the US-Mexico border on Wednesday and promised more to come as former Trump administration officials pressed him to declare an ‘invasion’ and to give state troopers and members of the National Guard the power to turn back migrants.

The two-term Republican governor has not said whether he supports such a concept, which constitutional scholars say is legally dubious, nearly unprecedented and would almost certainly face swift legal challenges.

But for now, Abbott said state troopers would begin stopping and inspecting commercial vehicles crossing the border, which he acknowledged would significantly slow down vehicle traffic near checkpoints. US entry. He also said bus charters to Washington, D.C., would be offered to migrants who volunteer for them, in a dig at President Joe Biden and Congress, which Abbott criticized for not making any enough.

Abbott said the inspection stops will occur on Texas highways and comply with the law. “But of course everyone always files a complaint,” he said.

The new guidelines represent the “unprecedented actions” Abbott promised in response to the Biden administration’s removal of a public health law – now due to expire in May – that limited asylum seekers to the name of prevention of the spread of COVID-19. When this happens, it is expected to attract more migrants to the southern border.

Texas officials also said they would begin “increased military activity” on the border and install barbed wire at some water points along the river to deter migrants from crossing.

The orders further expand a multibillion-dollar Texas border security mission that Abbott, who is running for re-election in November, has made a cornerstone of his administration. Already, Texas has deployed thousands of soldiers and National Guard members, installed a new border fence and jailed migrants for trespassing.

Still, the effort doesn’t go far enough for some former Trump administration officials, who want Abbott to essentially grant soldiers and Guardsmen enforcement powers that fall under federal responsibility.

Border Patrol officials say they expect up to 18,000 arrivals a day once the health policy, known as the Title 42 authority, expires in May. Last week, around 7,100 migrants were arriving at the US southern border every day.

But the way former Trump immigration officials see it, Texas and Arizona can pick up where the feds leave off. Their plan involves a new interpretation of the US Constitution to have the National Guard or state police forcibly send migrants to Mexico, disregarding immigration laws and law enforcement procedures. Border enforcement has always been a federal responsibility, and in Texas, state leaders have not pushed for such a decision.

Tom Homan, the former acting director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement under Trump, told a San Antonio audience last week that he discussed the idea with Abbott.

“We had discussions with his lawyers in his office, ‘Is there a way to use this clause in the Constitution where it talks about invasion?'” Homan said at the Expo on border security.

Homan said those talks took place about three months ago and described the governor’s office as “noncommittal but willing to listen.”

In Arizona, Republican Gov. Doug Ducey has also come under pressure from within his party to declare the state invaded and use extraordinary powers normally reserved for war. But Ducey, whose term is limited and who is not on the ballot in 2022, did not embrace the theory and avoided commenting on it directly.

The Center for Renewing America, a conservative policy think tank led by former Trump administration officials, is behind the effort on the right. It includes Ken Cuccinelli, a hardliner on immigration and a former Homeland Security official under Trump. He argued that states have the right to defend themselves against immediate danger or invasion, as defined by the “invasion clause”, under the “state self-defense clause”.

Cuccinelli said that in practice he envisions the plan to resemble Title 42 enforcement, which circumvents US obligations under US law and the international treaty to grant asylum. He said he had not spoken with Abbott and said the current Texas border mission, known as Operation Lone Star, had done little harm to the migration. The mission has also drawn criticism from members of the Guard over long deployments and little to do, and some arrests appear unrelated to border security.

“Until you actually send people back to Mexico, what you do won’t have any effect,” Cuccinelli said.

Emily Berman, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Houston, said the “invasion clause” cited by supporters is encased in a larger constitutional guarantee that the United States must defend states against invasion and domestic violence. Additionally, she said, the “state self-defense clause” states that states cannot engage in warlike actions or foreign policy unless they are invaded.

Berman said she hadn’t seen constitutional clauses used since the 1990s, when courts ruled they had no jurisdiction to decide what qualified as an invasion, but felt it couldn’t be done. than by another government entity.

For example, Berman said, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine can be called such because it is an outside government violating another country’s borders using military force.

“Just because the state says it’s an invasion doesn’t necessarily mean it’s so, I don’t know what additional legal authority gives it,” Berman said, adding that officials State officials can enforce state laws, but the line is drawn to what federal law allows.

U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar, a Democrat whose district includes the Texas border, has criticized the Biden administration for border security and the end of Title 42. But he doesn’t support states trying to use new powers which would allow them to “do whatever they want”.

“I think it should be more of a partnership instead of saying, ‘Federal government, we think you’re not doing enough, and why not go ahead and do our own border security? “, He said.


Coronado is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues. Associated Press reporter Jonathan J. Cooper in Phoenix and Nomaan Merchant in Washington contributed to this report.

Lynn A. Saleh