DEL RIO, Texas (Nexstar) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott held his latest border security briefing Saturday afternoon — this time joined by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
The two hosted state and local officials at the Del Rio International Airport in Del Rio, Texas. Abbott recently requested immediate federal assistance to help with the surge of migrants at the border. DeSantis deployed Florida law enforcement to Texas in response. According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, Florida sent 58 personnel as well as a plane and five shallow water boats.
Abbott claimed from April 2020 to April 2021, there was a 1,000% increase in migrants at the border and an 800% increase in border traffic from May 2020 to May of this year. In addition, Abbott said this was a new all-time record for people apprehended at the border.
Since early this year, Abbott has echoed sentiments laying blame for the surge on the Biden administration. Saturday was no different.
“Why is this happening? This is happening because of the massive change in policies by the Biden administration,” said Abbott. “Where the Trump administration had in place policies that were working and led to a dramatic decrease in the number of people coming across the border. Those policies were abandoned and in their place, the Biden administration has imposed open border policies….”
According to Abbott, since the state’s Operation Lone Star began, around 50,000 “illegal” migrants have been apprehended. Abbott also said they’ve detained about 2,000 “criminal aliens” (the term “alien” is no longer used by U.S. immigration agencies) and disrupted about 40 stash houses.
During the event, DeSantis explained his presence was also due to migration over Texas’ border and to Florida. He said after speaking to border sheriffs and volunteers, 95% of methamphetamine coming into Florida is coming through Texas. Additionally, DeSantis said 70% of traffickers who’ve been interdicted by officials said Florida was their “ultimate destination.”
“This [drug trafficking] is having a direct impact on the people in Florida and the country,” DeSantis said.
Both Abbott and DeSantis urged the federal government to intervene more actively, with the Florida governor saying he wanted previous policies by the Trump administration to be reinstated.
“This is a situation where all states need to be a part of the process of stepping up, because the best place to interdict this criminal activity is not in Florida, it’s not in Iowa, it’s right here on the border,” Abbott said.
Abbott also pointed the finger at state Democrats, who this week walked out of the Texas Capitol and flew to Washington, D.C. to block the state GOP-backed elections bill. Abbott said funding for border security can’t be secured just yet because of the exodus.
“The Democrats have fled the state, and they’ve broken quorum,” he said. “The Democrats are making it impossible for us to provide the funding that is needed at the local level. They need to come back, get back to work and do their job of providing the funding to the local counties that is needed to respond to a record-breaking change.”
Abbott has recently faced criticism over his border statements on the border, where some feel his bark is lacking bite. State Rep. Alex Dominguez, D-Brownsville, said in an interview Saturday he felt Abbott was attempting to distract from mistakes in the executive branch of the state’s government.
“Lately, it’s certainly hip among certain Republican governors to say, ‘well, we’re gonna send troops and National Guard to the southern border to help out,’ and I’m not quite sure what their plan is,” Dominguez, who was one of the Democrats to break quorum and flee to Capitol Hill, said.
“I think this is certainly another tactic in his arsenal to distract from mistakes, failures and inadequacies in his leadership,” Dominguez explained. “What we should be focusing on is shoring up that energy grid, making sure that Texans’ economic futures are secure.”
Responding to criticism about misplaced priorities, Abbott told Nexstar’s Wes Rapaport the lives of people who live along the border are being disrupted.
“Whether it be having their yards or their fences cut, their cattle and livestock released, their homes invaded, it could be people who are brandishing guns — there are challenges that people in Val Verde County as well as similar counties across this region… are facing,” Abbott said. “If people in Houston and Dallas were facing those same challenges, they would be demanding a response exactly like what we are responding to right here,” Abbott said.
According to Abbott, five other states are helping Texas in its border effort, including Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Arkansas and Ohio.