In an unprecedented move, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has been orchestrating the voluntary transportation of over 100,000 foreign nationals who illegally crossed the border to six designated sanctuary cities since April 2022. This initiative, aimed at providing relief to border communities overwhelmed by the escalating crisis, has sparked a series of controversies and strained relationships between the state and the sanctuary cities.
The epicenter of this relocation effort was Washington, D.C., the first self-described sanctuary city to receive foreign nationals from Texas. However, the move quickly backfired as the city declared a state of emergency and requested federal assistance, which was denied. Since then, more than 12,500 people have been transported to the nation’s capital, prompting concerns about the strain on resources.
Abbott expanded the operation to New York City in August 2022, where over 37,100 individuals have been bused. The influx led to Mayor Eric Adams declaring a state of emergency, placing blame on Abbott for the border crisis, and expressing financial concerns. In response, New York City sued 19 private busing companies contracted by Texas, a move Governor Abbott dismissed as baseless, suggesting that the city should direct its grievances toward President Joe Biden.
Chicago became another destination for the transported foreign nationals in August 2022. The mayor declared a state of emergency, attempting to halt the buses from dropping off individuals in the city. Texas responded by initiating flights to northern Illinois, leading to over 30,800 people being transported to Chicago. Democratic leaders in Illinois blamed Abbott for the crisis and sought federal funds to manage the increasing population.
By November 2022, Philadelphia became the latest city added to the list, with more than 3,400 people choosing to be bused there. In response, the city encouraged donations to the “Philadelphia Welcoming Fund” to support local efforts in welcoming immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers from various countries.
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Taxpayers in Texas have footed the bill for the transportation of foreign nationals to these sanctuary cities. Governor Abbott’s strategy expanded to include Denver and Los Angeles in 2023, with over 15,700 and 1,500 people bused to each city, respectively. Democratic mayors in these cities also criticized Abbott, holding him responsible for the border crisis.
Abbott emphasizes that the buses and flights from Texas are voluntary, with adults signing consent waivers for themselves and accompanying minors. These waivers, available in multiple languages, outline the chosen destination. The individuals are also provided with food, water, and medical care during the journey.
Despite criticism from Democratic mayors and governors, the situation in Texas reflects the broader issue of illegal immigration. Over 10 million foreign nationals were reported to have illegally entered the U.S. between January 1, 2021, and September 30, 2023, including 1.7 million who evaded capture. This staggering figure surpasses the individual populations of 41 states, underlining the magnitude of the challenge faced by the nation.
Texas, sharing the longest border with Mexico, has borne the brunt of illegal entry and associated crimes, leading to the allocation of more than $11.5 billion for Governor Abbott’s border security mission, Operation Lone Star (OLS). Since its launch, OLS officials have arrested over 495,400 foreign nationals and made more than 38,300 criminal arrests, resulting in more than 34,700 felony charges.
While no other states boast a comparable budget or size of the OLS force, law enforcement officials nationwide have issued warnings about increased break-ins and violent crimes committed by foreign nationals, citing the ongoing border crisis. Moreover, public health officials in major cities, including Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City, have raised concerns about a surge in communicable diseases, attributing it to the challenges posed by the border crisis.
As the debate surrounding immigration policies intensifies, Governor Abbott’s unconventional approach continues to draw attention, raising questions about the broader implications of the Texas border crisis on both a local and national scale. The voluntary relocation of foreign nationals to sanctuary cities has undoubtedly become a focal point in the ongoing discourse on immigration and border security.