Following the horror of a human-smuggling attempt that left 53 people dead, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state troopers to inspect more trucks — again expanding a border security mission that has cost billions, given the National Guard arrest powers and bused migrants to Washington, D.C.
What Abbott’s get-tough plans haven’t done in the year since he began rolling them out is curb the number of people crossing the border.
Along the border in Texas, where officials say Monday’s fatal tractor-trailer journey began, U.S. authorities stopped migrants from crossing illegally 523,000 times between January and May, up from 417,000 over the same span a year ago.
It reflects how, across the nation’s entire southern border, crossings are at or near the highest in about two decades.
The deadliest smuggling attempt in U.S. history illustrated the limitations of Abbott’s massive border apparatus as the two-term governor, who is up for reelection in November, points the finger at President Joe Biden.
“Texas is going to take action to do our part to try to reduce the illegal immigration coming into our country,” Abbott said Wednesday while on the border in the town of Eagle Pass.
He said that state troopers would begin inspecting more tractor-trailers in wake of the tragedy. He did not provide details about the extent or location of the inspections. But unlike an inspection effort three months ago that gridlocked the state’s 1,200-mile border for a week, troopers are not checking every tractor-trailer as it comes into Texas.
The Texas Department of Public Safety did not respond to questions Friday about how many trucks have been inspected since the governor’s order or whether any illegal immigrants had been found.
Since April, Abbott has offered bus rides to Washington, D.C., to illegal immigrants, saying he was taking the immigration issue to Congress’ doorstep. So far, about 3,000 migrants have taken the trip at a cost of more than $5 million.
“Greg Abbott, all he wants to do is gotcha phrases and gotcha stunts without any real solutions,” said state Sen. Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes the back road in San Antonio where the truck was found abandoned. “He’s spent over $10 billion supposedly securing the border and hasn’t done one damn thing to fix this.”
U.S. border authorities are stopping migrants more often on the southern border than at any time in at least two decades. Migrants were stopped nearly 240,000 times in May, up by one-third from a year ago.
Comparisons to pre-pandemic levels are complicated because migrants expelled under a public health authority known as Title 42 face no legal consequences, encouraging repeat attempts. Authorities say 25% of encounters in May were with people who had been stopped at least once in the previous year.
Abbott’s earlier truck inspection effort found no migrants or drugs.
Abbott stopped the checks after signing agreements with governors in Mexico’s four neighboring states, but warned he might reimpose them if he didn’t see improvement. The number of migrants crossing in May was higher than in April.
Asked about it Wednesday, Abbott said “accountability may come soon.” He also blamed Mexico’s federal government, saying it needs to do more.
He says the operation overall has been successful, pointing to more than 4,000 migrants arrested on state criminal trespassing charges, 14,000 felony arrests and drug seizures. He also said Texas has turned back more than 22,000 migrants over the last year — a fraction of the attempted border crossings across the southern border in a single month.
Before Monday’s tragedy, the deadliest attempted smuggling in Texas was in 2003 when the bodies of 19 people were found dead in a sweltering trailer about 100 miles southwest of San Antonio. Jeff Vaden, a former U.S. attorney who helped prosecute that case, said sentences for smuggling migrants are not high enough.
“It’s not a deterrent for people taking that risk,” he said.
The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.
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