The Border Lords

"...every executive order by Greg Abbott, regarding the border with Mexico, increases the risk of an incident even more horrendous than the current humanitarian crisis on our doorstep."

The Border Lords
Type of Military Equipment Greg Abbott Has Ordered to the Border
“Only a fool will run away from the problems, slavery, crime, poverty and suffering they face in their country to go and create problems, slavery, crime, poverty and suffering in another country.” - DJ Kyos, Philosopher
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Words are usually what cause wars. The deft politicians twist them to meet their ambitions, which often leads to dangerous conflicts. In Texas, we have a governor who pulls linguistic levers to increase his power and circumvent laws and the state legislature. The very real danger is that every executive order by Greg Abbott, regarding the border with Mexico, increases the risk of an incident even more horrendous than the current humanitarian crisis on our doorstep.

When he decided to begin spending state and federal tax money to send National Guard soldiers and state troopers to the border, Abbott simply issued a disaster declaration to give himself the authority to make such unilateral moves, which he has done capriciously and without significant positive impact, unless you own a restaurant in a border town that is frequented by the dispatched 1000 Department of Public Safety officers. Instead of using Covid monies from Washington to assist Texas communities, the governor played a shell game that sent a billion federal tax dollars to his Operation Lone Star. The U.S. Treasury Department is investigating the misuse. The expenditure was added to the $3 billion he has gotten from state taxpayers.

Abbott, though, is relentless as he works to “otherize” the poor, who are standing at our southern gate, with language and actions no less egregious than the former president’s. He is either genuinely afraid of immigrants or is determined to use the plight of the outlanders to build a bigger stage for his presidential ambitions, which increase each day Trump’s star lowers across the GOP firmament. The governor hardened his rhetoric last week when he began to describe what was happening at the border as an “invasion,” a declaration he has indicated renders unto his office even more extraordinary powers.

Abbott made clear he thinks the “Invasion Clauses of the U.S. and Texas Constitutions” empower him to militarize the border. His fellow conservatives say the national document allows the governor, or the governor of any state, to use troops and military resources, if they are being invaded, a notion that has been rejected numerous times by federal courts ruling that even hordes of immigrants do not constitute an invasion. The clause was included in the U.S. Constitution to allow states to protect themselves from foreign countries and their armies.

Abbott seems unconcerned about the power of incendiary terms and the dangers they summon. The day before the slaughter of people at Walmart in El Paso, the governor had sent out a fundraising letter urging his supporters to “defend” the border against illegal immigration, which he claimed the Democrats were using to “transform” Texas. He was pushing an inference connected to an absurd concept called the Great Replacement Theory, which is characterized as an effort to have ethnic immigrants replace white Europeans.

A day after Abbott’s mailer, a crazed gunman drove from Dallas to El Paso and killed 22 people. He told police he was targeting “Mexicans” and trying to stop an invasion. The governor later publicly apologized for his language in the letter by saying “mistakes were made.” He told El Pasoans he would work to see such a thing didn’t happen again and he set up a Texas Safety Commission composed of conservative Republicans who were likely to resist any type of gun “safety” regulations. The organization’s real role, was simply to fade political heat and pressure for gun control. A little over a year later the GOP-led legislature passed “permitless carry,” which means if you breathe and are 18, you can have a gun. This is Abbott’s idea of making certain El Paso doesn’t happen again. It hasn’t. But Uvalde did.

When Abbott used the word “invasion” in his recent Tweet and seemed to imply he had powers almost like a president to take measures to stop it, (no commission needed when it’s an issue he favors) conservatives were excited the border blockade might be elevated; except the governor took no additional steps. Whining from the right might have had something to do with an announcement three days later that the Texas Military Department was sending ten Vietnam era armored personnel carriers to the border. The M113s are generally used to carry troops into combat alongside tanks and can be armed with weapons ranging from rocket launchers to cannons, 50 caliber machine guns, grenade launchers and even antitank missiles. Such weaponry should prove every effective when deployed against immigrants carrying plastic bags containing their clothing. Just to be safe, though, the National Guard indicated it is stepping up aircraft flights and other security efforts. No one from the military or the governor’s office has indicated where the armored vehicles would be deployed nor how they might be used.

Get the impression Abbott won’t be satisfied until some triggers are pulled? If Greg Abbott were an actual leader instead of a craven fear monger, he might try to call together public officials from Texas to Washington and work cooperatively to develop policies that address the border crisis. Instead, he howls and cries about a problem and moves around money that isn’t his and people with better things to do as if he were accomplishing an important task. He is not, of course. Abbott wants attention, not solutions.

The Trump Republican Party just uses the border for a backdrop and photo op. Nothing gets done. The GOP nominee for House Speaker, Kevin McCarthy returned to El Paso last week for a political stunt calling for the head of Homeland Security to resign and threatening an investigation and impeachment if Alejandro Mayorkas refuses to quit. McCarthy was wearing regular street clothes and not camo, which tends to be the attire of choice for conservative members of congress who come to complain and not cooperate, treating the American border like it’s a war zone. He was photographed staring intently across the Rio Grande at a tent settlement of the poor and tired, scowling as if they were horned creatures from the gates of hades.

Ted Cruz could have recommended some camo shops and shown McCarthy a few cool spots near the cane brakes where he could have posed in the dark with his iPhone light on his noggin’ while he whispered about what might be going on behind him on the riverbank. Raffy Cruz has this border visit bullshit down to an Oscar-worthy act. He has never bothered to introduce a legislative plan to deal with the crisis and writes up idiotic ideas he knows will go nowhere like his proposal to create ports of entry for immigrants in cities located in blue states. He is very good, though, at pointing his flashlight across the river at people standing in their own country and calling them traffickers without any proof of who they are or what they are doing.

Although President Biden is constantly hammered as though he is standing at the border handing out Visas and new cars to immigrants, his budget for 2023 calls for Customs and Border Patrol to get a 13 percent increase in funding, a total of $15.3 billion to hire 300 more agents and 300 officials to process paperwork and applications of undocumented people entering the country. An additional $309 million will be used for modern border security technology with funds earmarked to “enforce immigration law, further secure U.S. borders and ports of entry, and effectively manage irregular migration along the Southwest border.” Last April, DHS added 600 law enforcement officers to its border force. Not exactly the “open border” described by hyperventilating GOP goobers like Cruz and McCarthy.

Because Title 42 will end in mid-December following a federal court ruling, many experts anticipate an increased rush to the border by immigrants. During the pandemic, the regulation was used to keep asylum seekers in Mexico until their claims had been processed, an attempt to reduce transmission of the virus. By U.S. law, historically, people seeking political asylum have been allowed into the country while their applications are reviewed, a procedure that will be resumed in a few weeks. DHS issued a new rule this spring that will enable officers, and not just judges, to make decisions about who is qualified to apply for asylum and who must be returned across the border. This may help any anticipated flood expected in the new year by using what Mayorkas described as “enhanced removal” of anyone without an established legal basis for asylum.

While Governor Abbott and the GOP do their best to turn the border into a dystopia, the initiative for an effective policy is coming from the Democrats. Texas State Representative Eddie Morales, a Democrat whose district contains 175 miles of the Mexican frontier, has sent the Texas governor a plan to facilitate improved border conditions and controlled immigration. Morales has outlined an idea for expanding land ports and increasing their number, which would allow separate operations for immigration. People might pay fees and get visas to track employment and work towards citizenship, a more viable approach than paying a coyote thousands of dollars to sneak them across the river to live in anonymity in the states. In the World War II era and into the sixties, the U.S. relied on a very successful and effective Bracero program to provide temporary workers to replace troops overseas. A reconsideration of that concept, revised for a contemporary economy, might be valuable. In an interview on MSNBC, Morales also called for the immediate deportation of undocumented border crossers, more funding for law enforcement in local communities adjacent to Mexico, and a high-tech, virtual state-of-the-art border wall.

The governor has not responded to the Morales plan, possibly because it originates with a Democrat and there is no political gain in letting the opposition get credit for fixing messes. The mess must be sustained and used as a bludgeon, not offering an instrument to repair that which is broken, but to destroy anyone who might want to conduct the business of making things work. Imagine life on the Texas-Mexico border. There are already about 6000 soldiers in camo uniforms, (down from 10,000), carrying weapons and driving Humvees painted with camouflage coloring, and soon there will be armored personnel carriers, which can carry big guns. Driving to the grocery store, a border resident might pass a dozen black and white state trooper cruisers and then see the sun glinting off the razor wire spread along the river by Greg Abbott’s orders. The situation seems to devolve with each new mandate from the governor’s mansion and begins to look and feel like a B-grade apocalyptic movie. People on both sides of the river grow more frustrated and desperate because they see no progress toward managing one of the great humanitarian crises of our time.

In a time when leadership and compassion are essential, America gets only hypocrisy and partisan politics, neither of which have ever fixed a damn thing.

James Moore is a New York Times bestselling author, political analyst, and business communications consultant who has been writing and reporting on Texas politics since 1975. He writes frequently for CNN and other national media outlets and can be reached a