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Texas Actions to Strength Border Security Could Have Electoral Implications


Texas Governor Greg Abbot’s message is clear: to deter illegal immigration at all costs and protect the border. His actions have drawn criticism from pro-immigration groups that have labeled this as racist. 

Ethnic Media Services hosted the panel “Hate Escalates at the Border: Setting the Stage for 2024” to discuss what is going on at the border in that southern state, a new lawsuit against limiting migrants’ ability to file for asylum, and what these actions portend for a new presidential election in 2024. 

The participants were Manuel Ortiz EscámezSociologist, Journalist, and Documentary Filmmaker, Ethnic Media Services and Peninsula 360 Press; Gianna Borroto, Senior Litigation Attorney at the American Immigration Council; and Cal Jillson, Professor of Political Science at Southern Methodist University and Author of several books including the upcoming “Race, Ethnicity, and American Decline”. 

The panel was moderated by Pilar Marrero, Associate Director of Ethnic Media Services. 

The Justice Department filed a civil complaint against the State of Texas because the state has built a floating barrier, consisting of buoys strung together, in the Rio Grande River without the federal authorization that is legally required under the Rivers and Harbors Act.  

The complaint seeks to enjoin the building of the barrier and to require the state to remove it. This is part of the ongoing feud between the State of Texas and the Biden Administration concerning border security. 

The complaint alleges that Texas directed the placement of a floating barrier – buoys four to six feet in diameter strung together – in the Rio Grande, approximately two miles south of the Camino Real International Bridge in Eagle Pass, Texas. Governor Abbott has said the state may build more barriers as part of a broader effort called “Operation Lone Star,” which also includes placing concertina wire near the U.S.-Mexico border.

The case is being litigated by the Environmental Defense Section of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Since the launch of Operation Lone Star, the multi-agency effort has led to over 394,200 illegal immigrant apprehensions and more than 31,300 criminal arrests, with more than 29,100 felony charges reported. In the fight against fentanyl, Texas law enforcement has seized over 422 million lethal doses of fentanyl during this border mission, according to the Governor’s office. 

For Manuel Ortiz, who witnessed a large group of approximately 30 immigrants and families arriving at Eagle Pass, Texas, the border area has become a highly militarized zone.  

“I’ve been at the U.S.-Mexico border many times and this is the first time that looked to me like a war zone. You can hear the helicopters, military cars, so it looks like a war zone,” Ortiz said.

Ortiz said that smugglers are telling immigrants to cross during the day when it is very hot and there are fewer border patrol agents around. 

“These people I spoke to said they had to walk six hours. The kids were exhausted and had be to carried because of the heat,” Ortiz said. 

In a thread on Twitter, Governor Abbott emphasized that Texas has the sovereign authority to defend the Texas-Mexico Border. 

“The tragic humanitarian crisis on the border was created because Biden refused to secure the border,” Abbott said. “We will continue to deploy every strategy to protect Texas and Americans — and the migrants risking their lives. We will see you in court, Mr. President.”

Gianna Borroto, Senior Litigation Attorney at the American Immigration Council spoke about a new lawsuit challenging the CBP One Turnback Policy. 

This lawsuit challenges the federal government’s border-wide policy and practice of turning back asylum seekers without a CBP One appointment at ports of entry (POEs) along the southern border, denying them access to the U.S. asylum process. The suit seeks to end U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s newest iteration and to ensure that the government is complying with U.S. laws meant to protect asylum seekers’ rights and safety. 

“Restricting asylum access to only individuals who can use a smartphone app imposes unfair and at times, insurmountable, barriers for asylum seekers. The CBP One Turnback Policy, under which CBP officers turn back most asylum seekers who cannot secure an appointment made via the CBP One app, creates language, literacy, and disability access issues,” the organization stated. 

But with anti-immigration laws popping up in several states, it is yet to be seen if this will have an impact on the 2024 election. 

Cal Jillson, Professor of Political Science at Southern Methodist University and Author said:

“I think the politics of the border has been replayed many times throughout American history. Republicans in Texas and nationally have the political advantage because a simple message is always the winner,” Jillson said. “Democrats have a more complex coalition of supporters. Some of whom recognize that the Republican charge that Democrats are for open borders is a political killer for democrats.” 

Jillson believes immigration will not become a central issue in the upcoming presidential election if the economy remains strong and sees the Democrats having the advantage in the General Election. 

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