(NewsNation) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced this week that he will start busing migrants to Washington in response to the Biden administration’s decision to end the Title 42 health order. Critics, however, accuse Abbott of engaging in political theater.
“We are sending (illegal immigrants) to the United States Capitol, where the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people they are allowing to come across our border,” Abbott said Wednesday.
Abbott’s remarks came in direct response to a rule change that will roll back immigration restrictions put in place during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The public health policy, known as Title 42, was enacted under President Donald Trump at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and continued under President Joe Biden. It allowed the government to turn away migrants at the border for public health reasons.
Now, the order is set to expire on May 23. Abbott and others fear the end of the rule will lead to a migrant surge that will overwhelm already beleaguered border agents.
Border Patrol officials say they are planning for as many as 18,000 arrivals a day once Title 42 expires.
Abbott says migrants won’t be forced to go to Washington, but will be offered the opportunity to do so.
Others accusd the Texas governor of playing political games to rally his base.
“It’s one of the worst cases I’ve ever seen of political piñata theater,” said Domingo Garcia, the president of LULAC — the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Garcia said migrants won’t board the buses and he is especially concerned about those who are most vulnerable feeling unwelcome.
“When you have a Texas Department of Public Safety sheriff with his cowboy hat, his cowboy boots and a gun and a badge, that can be very intimidating to an immigrant who just arrived here from Ukraine or El Salvador. They might think they have to do that and it’s not voluntary,” said Garcia.
So far, not a single bus has been loaded.
Abbott also ordered state troopers to begin safety inspections on commercial vehicles after they cross the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas.
State officials acknowledged the move could slow traffic but said it was necessary and legal.
“We don’t need probable cause to do safety commercial vehicle inspections and that’s what we’re doing. It’s not a subterfuge, it’s simply to make sure those vehicles are safe when they enter Texas,” said Steven McCraw, director of the Texas Department of Public Safety.
Meanwhile, members of the National Guard began riot training drills to prepare themselves for encountering large groups along the border.
Texas officials are also staging boat blockades and planning to place razor wire along the Rio Grande River in low water areas where illegal border crossings are frequent.
Garcia lamented the change in posture on America’s border, comparing it to other symbols of hostility throughout history.
“It’s sad when America’s borders start to look like the Berlin Wall, where we’re putting barbed wire on top of walls and fences, where we are dehumanizing people — and these are people — most of them Christians,” he said.