(NewsNation) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott garnered national attention earlier this year when he began sending busloads of migrants to liberal strongholds like Chicago, New York and Washington D.C. For months, Abbot, a Republican, has butted heads with the federal government over Congress’ lack of action at the border.
Pressed on the matter during a debate with his Democratic gubernatorial challenger Beto O’Rourke on Friday, Abbott explained why hasn’t sent migrants to so-called sanctuary cities in Republican-led states. Destinations like New York, Chicago and D.C., he said, are “so large and have the infrastructure that’s available” to help aid with the record-number of migrant encounters at the Southwest border.
“They (border cities) were overrun with the number of migrants,” Abbott said. “They needed relief and bussing was one of the ways of providing them relief.”
O’Rourke, who is from El Paso, fired back and criticized Abbott for “treating humans as political pawns.”
“This hateful rhetoric, treating human beings as political pawns, talking about invasions and Texans defending themselves is how people get killed at the Wal-Mart in El Paso, (as well as) the gentlemen in Hudspeth that we just learned about yesterday,” O’Rourke said. “This is incredibly dangerous for Texas and is not reflective of our values.”
Other efforts by Abbott to secure the border have included the launch of Operation Lone Star — an initiative that sent members of the Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety to the border in response to an influx of migrants.
Alternatively, O’Rourke has advocated for border technology such as sensors, surveillance towers, and drones capable of detecting crossings between ports of entry.
He’s also suggested increasing processing capacity to allow for more efficient screening for asylum eligibility and criminal background checks. He says the U.S. can deter illegal migration by guaranteeing legal pathways and supporting the economy with a guest worker program that allows migrants to fill labor shortages.