Texas Governor Greg Abbott made his first public address Monday since his state was struck by double tragedies—and he spent the entire time demonizing migrants.
A gunman opened fire at a mall north of Dallas on Saturday, killing at least eight people and wounding seven others before authorities shot him to death. The shooter is reported to have held extremist and white nationalist beliefs. The next day, an SUV driver slammed into a crowd outside a migrant shelter in the border city of Brownsville, killing eight people and injuring at least 10 others.
During a press conference at the Austin Bergstrom International Airport, Abbott announced he was deploying a new border control unit to El Paso and the Rio Grande Valley, ahead of when Title 42 ends later this week. Title 42 is a federal immigration policy employed by the Trump administration at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic to expel migrants without having to consider them for asylum. The Biden administration has kept the policy going.
“The cartels are working in collaboration with President [Joe] Biden and the federal government to facilitate that illegal cross-border,” Abbott said. “We are being overrun by our own federal government. Texas is being undermined by our own federal government in our efforts to secure our border.”
Normal stuff for a governor to say as his state still reels from dual tragedies.
Abbot went on to propose penalties such as potential felony offenses for anyone who crosses the border without papers.
His remarks come a week after another time Abbott demonized migrants. On April 28, a man in Texas shot dead five of his neighbors, including a 9-year-old boy, after one of them asked him to stop firing shots in his yard so the family’s baby could sleep. Abbott claimed in a press release that the shooter was “in the country illegally and killed five illegal immigrants.”
The governor came under fire for his statement, which is still up on his website, with critics accusing him of using the tragedy to fearmonger instead of enacting meaningful change.
“There is no limit to the depravity of Greg Abbott and his Texas Republican cronies,” Texas Democratic Party Chair Gilberto Hinojosa said in a statement. “To use a mass shooting, in which five innocent souls were slaughtered execution-style … to fearmonger and lie about migrants and the victims’ immigration status.… This type of sick behavior is truly beyond the pale.”
After the most recent tragedies, Abbott similarly has resisted calls for change. He told Fox News Sunday that rather than pass more gun control laws, he would focus instead on mental health issues, a favorite Republican scapegoat for gun violence.