Attacking and exploiting immigrants for political gain is a unifying issue for Republicans and that was on full display at one of their “favorite” photo op sites this past weekend in Texas.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott endorsed former President Donald Trump for reelection during a joint appearance in the state at an event in the Rio Grande Valley, claiming that “we need Donald J. Trump back as our president,” The Dallas Morning News reported. During the appearance in South Texas, the former president continued to invoke the same white nationalist conspiracy theory spewed by a number of domestic terrorists, falsely claiming “it’s an invasion” at the border.
While the fact that Abbott is endorsing Trump is not at all a surprise, it foreshadows the deeply concerning political and policy agenda the GOP is adopting towards immigration and the border. What’s been happening on immigration from the GOP controlled Texas government is a prototype for what Trump – as well as his allies at the Heritage Foundation’s anti-democracy Project 2025 – envisions for the entire nation. Both Abbott and Trump have pushed the “invasion” lie, have called for rounding up immigrants and families with deep roots here, and have called for intentionally deadly policies that foment racial profiling, discrimination and violence. In fact, no other governor in the nation has carried out a more cruel and wildly expensive anti-immigrant agenda than Abbott, proposing or implementing dehumanizing, dangerous, and wasteful policies attacking migrants, including those seeking asylum, without concrete results in reducing border traffic or creating more order or safety. While some states have considered themselves laboratories of democracy, Abbott has turned Texas into a horrifying laboratory experimenting with how far they can push their nativism and the bounds of U.S. law.
Abbott has appointed himself the apparent successor to Trump’s racist and ineffective border wall, ordering the construction of border wall sections in the state and unlawfully installing saw blade barriers in the Rio Grande. The barriers have been ineffective at stopping unlawful migration but have led to injury. The cruelty – not solutions to reduce and manage unauthorized migration – has always been the point. These are political statements to fire up xenophobic voters, not policies to address migration.
Abbott’s signature Operation Lone Star is a likely illegal program that has already wasted billions in state (and possibly federal) funds on Abbott’s ineffective policies, burning through $2.5 million dollars a week at a total of more than $4.5 billion so far. The policy has been in place for more than two years and has, in part, targeted Black and Latino migrants for arrest under the guise of state trespassing law, illegally jailing many for weeks and months at a time without any formal state charges. While local and national advocates have fiercely pushed back against Operation Lone Star, Abbott’s response has been to triple-down, demanding special session after special session in the legislature to push through new legislation that attempts to trump federal authority on immigration and turn local and state police into agents targeting anyone with brown or black skin.
“The anti-immigrant bills on Governor Abbott’s desk were written and passed by the xenophobic, extremist, right-wing people who are in control of the Texas Republican party now,” Texas Rep. Joaquin Castro said during a recent press call that also featured Rep. Greg Casar, Texas Mexican American Legislative Caucus Chair Victoria Neave Criado and Texas Civil Rights Project’s Roberto Lopez. “These bills turn every law enforcement officer in the state of Texas into an immigration officer, giving wide latitude to question and challenge the citizenship of just about anyone and interfere with federal immigration enforcement. We’ve already seen how problematic that can get through Operation Lone Star, a program which has violated people’s legal, civil and human rights already.”
Let’s be clear: Trump endorses this. The Dallas Morning News reported that Trump applauded Abbott’s use of Texas resources. By the way, Abbott’s use of resources is currently under investigation by the Treasury Department watchdog, following reports that he swindled roughly $1 billion in federal coronavirus funds to keep his program running.
Trump’s alarming immigration plan – and escalating use of dangerous and incendiary rhetoric echoing dictators like Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini – should be a flashing red alert, promising assaults on legal immigration, refugees, asylum seekers, the foreign-born and their U.S. citizen children. While Abbott seeks to newly empower state and local officers with purported immigration authorities, Trump seeks this on a national level, reportedly planning to enlist “federal agents and deputize local police officers and National Guard soldiers voluntarily contributed by Republican-run states” to aid with ICE raids, The New York Times reported.
“It’s not all that surprising that Gov. Abbott endorsed Donald Trump given their party’s full descent into nativism and anti-immigrant furor,” said Mario Carrillo, Texas-based Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice. “Texas has become the testing ground to some of the right-wing’s most nefarious immigration policies, from family separation to deadly border buoys and now to a bill that will deputize local law enforcement to detain and deport anyone they deem to be an immigrant.”
“Gov. Abbott’s policies combined with Donald Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric are putting targets on the backs of families like mine and communities across the state,” Carrillo continued. “Americans have already rejected the extremism of Donald Trump and must now push back against the extremism taking over states like Texas.”