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Greg Abbott’s border schemes fail in unexpectedly amazing ways

Migrants seem grateful to the Republican Texas governor for offering them free bus trips to the U.S. capital. "His help is very much welcomed," one said.


Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, eager to appear “tough” in an election year, launched something called Operation Lone Star, which was intended to address illegal immigration. As part of the initiative, the Republican governor deployed thousands of Texas National Guard troops to the U.S./Mexico border.

Abbott’s political stunt ultimately proved to be a fiasco, with troops condemning the “deplorable conditions” and their “unclear mission.”

As part of the same political gambit, the governor imposed additional layers of inspections on all commercial vehicles entering the Lone Star State. This caused brutal backups and cost American consumers and businesses billions of dollars, before the Republican finally agreed to pull the plug on his stunt.

What did Abbott have to show for his stunt? Not much: The Houston Chronicle reported that the governor’s deliberate border delays “resulted in zero migrants’ detentions or illegal drug seizures.”

But perhaps most striking of all is the bus phase of Operation Lone Star. As we’ve discussed, the governor thought it’d be a good idea to put groups of undocumented migrants on buses and transport them to Washington, D.C., without any coordination with federal officials.

As The New York Times reported, the policy doesn’t appear to be working out quite as Abbott intended.

Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas devised a plan this month to rattle the Biden administration by busing migrants from the southwest border to the nation’s capital during a period of record crossings. So far, though, the plan has not resulted in the chaos that Mr. Abbott predicted.

As it turns out, plenty of migrants were quite pleased to discover that the state of Texas was offering free bus trips, financed by American taxpayers. The Times highlighted one Brazilian family who entered the country through Mexico, and gladly took advantage of the opportunity to take a free chartered bus trip to the U.S. capital, where the family was greeted by volunteers who helped them.

“I would like to say thank you to the governor of Texas,” one said.

Another told the Times how pleased he was to hear the word “free,” adding, “I am very thankful to the governor. His help is very much welcomed.”

The article added, “Santo Linarte López, a migrant from Nicaragua, had only $45 left from the $1,500 he had raised for his monthlong trip to the U.S. border. He said he did not understand why Mr. Abbott was paying for him to travel north, but he was grateful.”

If any of this sounds at all familiar, it’s not your imagination. Three years ago this month, Donald Trump’s White House concocted a related scheme: U.S. immigration authorities were pressured to round up undocumented immigrants and release them in select areas as part of a plan to “retaliate“ against the then-president’s political adversaries.

As we discussed, confusion soon followed: The White House said the plan was discarded and dead; Trump said the opposite. Administration officials said the plan was illegal and impractical; Trump said the opposite. The then-president even proceeded to lie publicly about official responses to his gambit.

But one of the overarching problems was the issue of possible incentives. Kevin Drum summarized it nicely: “Trump would be loudly proclaiming that if you come to the United States to seek asylum, we will put you into a comfy American bus and send you to a city where you will be given food and shelter. Everyone there will try to help you find work and provide lawyers to help with your asylum request.”

Exactly. The Republican White House considered a plan that would’ve encouraged more of what Trump didn’t want. The then-president, at least initially, liked the idea of a policy in which his administration would transport new arrivals — for free — to diverse and welcoming American cities, with large immigrant communities.

The more struggling people south of the border heard about such a policy, the more likely they were to try to enter the United States.

Three years later, it’s hard not to wonder about the effects of Abbott’s related policy. What happens when those considering whether to make the effort to reach American soil are told that the governor of Texas is offering free bus trips to Washington, D.C., with occasional stops along the way, letting people off in Alabama, Georgia, and North Carolina?