After the horror of a people-smuggling attempt that killed 53 people, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott ordered state troops to inspect more trucks — yet again expanding a border security mission that has cost billions because the National Guard had arrest powers and buses migrants into Washington brought , DC
What Abbott’s dogged plans have not achieved in the year since he began rolling it out is to curb the number of people crossing the border.
How did the truck that killed 53 migrants get through a US border checkpoint?
Along the Texas border, where officials said the deadly tractor-trailer journey began Monday, US authorities blocked migrants from crossing illegally 523,000 times between January and May, up from 417,000 in the same period a year ago. It reflects how across the country’s southern border, incursions are at or near the highest in about two decades.
The deadliest smuggling attempt in US history exposed the limitations of Abbott’s massive border apparatus when the two-term governor, who is up for re-election in November, points the finger at President Joe Biden. Immigration policy advocates disagreed with Abbott’s criticism, saying Biden was focused on enforcement.
“Texas will take action to do our part to reduce illegal immigration into our country,” Abbott said Wednesday at the border in the town of Eagle Pass.
He said state troopers would begin inspecting more tractor-trailers after the tragedy. He did not provide information on the scope and location of the controls. But unlike an inspection three months ago, when the state’s 1,200-mile border was blocked for a week, soldiers don’t check every tractor-trailer truck as it enters Texas.
The Texas Department of Public Safety on Friday did not respond to questions about how many trucks have been inspected since the governor’s order or whether migrants have been found.
Critics have questioned the transparency and metrics of the now $3 billion mission since Operation Lone Star launched in spring 2021. Some arrests, including for small amounts of marijuana at traffic stops, appear to have little to do with border security. After a rushed deployment by the Texas National Guard, some members complained of low morale, late paychecks, and little to do.
Since April, Abbott has been offering bus rides to Washington, DC for migrants crossing the border and says he’s bringing the immigration issue to the doorstep of Congress. So far, about 3,000 migrants have made the trip, which has cost more than $5 million.
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“Greg Abbott, all he wants to do is phrases and stunts with no real solutions,” said Senator Roland Gutierrez, a Democrat whose district includes the side street in San Antonio where the truck was found abandoned. “He’s spent over $10 billion supposedly securing the border and hasn’t done a damn thing to fix it.”
US border officials are stopping migrants at the southern border more often than at any time in at least two decades. Migrants were stopped almost 240,000 times in May, a third more than a year ago.
Comparisons to pre-pandemic levels are complicated because migrants expelled under a health agency known as Title 42 face no legal consequences, leading to repeated attempts. Authorities say 25% of encounters in May were with people who had been stopped at least once in the previous year.
Abbott’s earlier truck inspection efforts met with widespread backlash and deep economic losses, and the soldiers found neither migrants nor drugs.
Abbott halted the controls after signing memoranda of understanding with governors in Mexico’s four neighboring states, but warned he could reintroduce them if he doesn’t see improvement. The number of migrants crossing the border in May was higher than in April.
Asked about it on Wednesday, Abbott said “accountability could come soon.” He also blamed the Mexican federal government, saying it needs to do more.
He says the operation was overall successful, pointing to more than 4,000 migrants arrested on state criminal trespassing allegations, 14,000 felony arrests and drug seizures. He also said Texas turned back more than 22,000 migrants last year — a fraction of the attempted border crossings across the southern border in a single month.
Before Monday’s tragedy, the deadliest smuggling attempt in Texas took place in 2003, when the bodies of 19 people were found dead in a muggy trailer home about 100 miles southwest of San Antonio. Jeff Vaden, a former US attorney who helped prosecute the case, said penalties for smuggling migrants are not severe enough.
“It’s not a deterrent for people to take that risk,” he said.
One of the first to visit some of the migrants who were pulled from the truck and hospitalized in San Antonio was Antonio Fernandez, president and CEO of Catholic Charities, which provides shelter and support to migrants and their families.
Fernandez said summer is usually a slower time, but not this year. A hotel used by Catholic charities, which normally sleeps 50 people, has been filling up to 100 people every night lately and it now has eight staff helping families with immigration instead of just one.
“My conversations with many of these people clearly have nothing in their countries,” Fernandez said. “They have no life and they don’t feel safe. They are hungry. For them, America is not a choice. It’s the only option they have.”
© 2022 The Canadian Press
https://globalnews.ca/news/8962895/texas-to-tighten-border-inspection-death-migrants/ Texas tightens border controls after death of 53 migrants – National