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What Greg Abbott’s political antics at the border have in common

Greg Abbott’s border moves give the appearance of action, but they don’t make a meaningful difference and no one actually benefits from the policies.


It’s an election year in Texas, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott appears to have a strategy in mind for winning a third term: The key to impressing voters is launching a series of ineffective political stunts at the U.S./Mexico border.

Under his Operation Lone Star, for example, the GOP governor deployed thousands of Texas National Guard troops to the border as part of a massive political stunt, intended to impress conservative media and would-be primary voters. It quickly turned into a disaster, with troops condemning the “deplorable conditions” and an “unclear mission,” all of which is drastically disrupting the lives of troops who haven’t even been paid on time.

As part of the same “operation,” Abbott also thought it’d be a good idea to put a group of undocumented migrants on buses and transport them to Washington, D.C. In fact, they arrived yesterday.

As my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones added last week, “If you’re asking, ‘Hey, isn’t forcibly relocating people from one state to another kidnapping?’ You’re probably right, which is likely the reason Abbott’s team later had to clarify that the program would be ‘voluntary‘ for migrants.”

In other words, Texas’ governor launched a bold move in which he shipped undocumented migrants, who agreed to serve as political props, over 1,000 miles, as part of some kind of protest against the Biden administration’s policies.

But perhaps Abbott’s most consequential move had to do with inspections. The Washington Post reported:

Huge, multi-mile traffic jams at numerous U.S. border crossings in Mexico worsened Wednesday as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) largely kept in place his new restrictions that require secondary inspections of commercial trucks and other vehicles. The new policy, announced last week, has led some truckers to remain snarled in traffic for more than 30 hours, prompting desperate pleas from fruit and vegetable importers, the auto industry and other executives who said their products are being caught up in a political standoff.

When the Republican announced last week that all commercial vehicles entering Texas would have to undergo additional layers of inspections, practically everyone warned that the policy would create lengthy delays. The warnings, of course, were predictably correct.

Officials at U.S. Customs and Border Protection clearly aren’t pleased. The White House isn’t happy, either. Among the many who are similarly displeased are American businesses that struggle when supply chains are disrupted for no reason. The fact that Abbott’s stunt will contribute to inflation adds insult to injury.

Among the most notable critics of the governor’s policy is Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller, who described Abbott’s move as “political theater” and an Abbott’s “economy killing action” that might soon lead to shortages on grocery store shelves.

In an open letter addressed to the governor, Miller — a Trump-endorsed Republican — added, “Your inspection protocol is not stopping illegal immigration. It is stopping food from getting to grocery store shelves and in many cases causing food to rot in trucks — many of which are owned by Texas and other American companies.”

There’s a common thread, of course, that ties together each of Abbott’s moves: They give the appearance of action; they don’t make a meaningful difference; and no one actually benefits from the policies, except perhaps some migrants who wanted a free trip to the nation’s capital.

But the governor will no doubt run television ads ahead of Election Day boasting about his “tough” tactics, which gloss over the fact that his agenda is doing more harm than good.