The Oklahoman

GOP governors slam Biden as cause for ‘chaos at the border’

Democrats denounced visit as gimmickry

- John C. Moritz

MISSION — With an array of military vehicles in the background, Gov. Greg Abbott played host to nine of his fellow Republican state chief executives under the blazing South Texas sun Wednesday to again call attention to what he says is an ongoing immigratio­n crisis.

Abbott used the event, which drew in some 50 media outlets from around the country, to escalate what has already been a withering barrage of criticism of the Democratic Biden administra­tion and the president in particular for rolling back many of the hard line immigratio­n policies of the Trump years.

“President Joe Biden has caused a humanitari­an crisis and chaos on our border,” Abbott said as the other nine governors looked on.

The two-term Texas governor, as well as many of the others, linked the illegal border crossings that have captured headlines and newsreel footage for several months to what they said is a growing crisis of fentanyl overdoses across the nation.

Much of the opioid narcotic is smuggled across the southern border and finds its way to cities and towns in virtually every state, they said.

Abbott also used the event, as he has at numerous recent news conference along the border and in cities across Texas, to further burnish his credential­s as an immigratio­n hardliner as he heads into the 2022 election cycle where he faces two GOP challenger­s even farther to his right.

Texas Democrats, meanwhile, appear to be pinning their hopes on former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke. The El Paso native who during his close loss to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz in 2018 and in his short-lived bid for the 2020 Democratic nomination, consistent­ly pushed for a more humanitari­an approach to immigratio­n at the southern border.

The event carried a decidedly militarist­ic ambiance with 11 Humvees, two five-ton Army trucks and Army UH 60

Black Hawk helicopter­s stationed behind the speakers’ lectern. When Abbott, dressed in a khaki shirt with epaulettes on the shoulders, got out of his vehicle within sight of a wide bank of news cameras, troops from the National Guard deployed to South Texas snapped to attention and greeted him with salutes upon the command of “present arms.”

It was held at a sprawling pastoral setting inside the levee that protects nearby farming fields from flooding when the Rio Grande rises above its winding channel within sight of the Anzalduas Internatio­nal Bridge.

The 15-acre Anzalduas Park had been the site of a shelter site for up to 650 asylum-seeking migrants released from federal custody.

Who were the other GOP governors?

The other governors were Doug Ducey of Arizona, Brian Kemp of Georgia, Brad Little of Idaho, Kim Reynolds of Iowa, Greg Gianforte of Montana, Pete Ricketts of Nebraska, Mike DeWine of Ohio, Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma, and Mark Gordon of Wyoming. Kristi Noem of South Dakota canceled her planned trip because of the Black Hills wildfire.

The Democratic National Committee called the South Texas event a politicall­y motivated distractio­n, saying they “stood idly by as Donald Trump spent four years destroying our immigratio­n system.”

“If Republican governors want to make a statement about the border, maybe they can call on their Republican members of Congress to join President Biden and Democrats in working to rebuild and improve our immigratio­n system instead of flying thousands of miles for a stunt designed to further their own political aspiration­s,” said DNC spokeswoma­n Adonna Biel.

The governors, however, said they are prepared to offer solutions. However, many of them involve reinstatin­g now-discarded Trump policies, including resuming constructi­on of the border wall.

Abbott also touted his own efforts, including the Legislatur­e’s appropriat­ion this year of more than $2 billion to boost state law enforcemen­t presence in South Texas and to build sections of fencing near the Rio Grande.

Ducey, of Arizona, was the only governor beside Abbott to preside over a border state. He echoed his Texas counterpar­t’s assessment.

“The border situation is just as out of control in the state of Arizona,” Ducey said. “The border sector in Yuma has had more than a 1,000% increase in apprehensi­ons compared to last year.

“The Tucson sector has seen more than a 200% increase in apprehensi­ons. And it’s not just the people that are crossing the border. It’s the lethal drugs.”

Also, Ducey was not sparing in his criticism of the Biden administra­tion.

“There are people to blame for making America a more dangerous place: President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas,” Ducey said. “It’s no secret anymore. They have created this crisis.”

Biden administra­tion pushes back

In a news briefing in late September, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administra­tion is approachin­g the immigratio­n issue from a wide angle.

“It’s also about investing in border security, making sure it makes sense and we’re investing in it in a way that makes sense,” she said. “And creating an asylum processing system that is actually functional, which I think we all agree it’s not.”

Mayorkas, meanwhile, told the USA TODAY editorial board Tuesday the administra­tion has learned much from the recent influx of migrants fleeing earthquake-stricken Haiti into Del Rio last month and will be prepared amid reports that another wave might be on its way.

“It was most certainly a challenge that we had not encountere­d previously,” Mayorkas said. “And what we have done now, is we have developed plans that should something like that occur again, we’re ready for it.”

Before the governors arrived at the park, Abbott said they were given a private briefing by the Texas Department of Public Safety about what troopers and other law enforcemen­t officers are encounteri­ng at the border.

 ?? AARON E. MARTINEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN ?? Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, backed by other Republican governors, military leaders, and law enforcemen­t officers, speaks Wednesday at he United States' southern border in Mission, Texas.
AARON E. MARTINEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, right, and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, left, backed by other Republican governors, military leaders, and law enforcemen­t officers, speaks Wednesday at he United States' southern border in Mission, Texas.

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