Since Gov. Greg Abbott initially announced his plan to bus migrants to Washington, D.C. at a press conference on Wednesday, he has since softened his rhetoric and clarified that the program would be completely voluntary for migrants.
The governor has described his move as a response to President Biden’s decision to end Title 42, a pandemic-era emergency health order that allowed immigration authorities to turn away migrants at the border, even those seeking asylum. In a statement Abbott promised “unprecedented action…to curtail the flow of drugs, human traffickers, illegal immigrants, weapons, and other contraband into Texas.”
On Wednesday, Abbott said Texas would place state troopers in riot gear to meet migrants at the border and bus them straight to the steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., where he said the Biden administration “will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border.”
In details released after the press conference, the governor’s office clarified that the program is completely voluntary for migrants and would happen only after they had been processed and released by the Department of Homeland Security.
Abbott has since been hit by a wave of backlash from both sides. The ACLU and other immigration advocacy groups have argued that the program would place migrants at risk.
“Any forcible busing of migrants across the country would be outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional,” Kate Huddleston, a staff attorney at ACLU of Texas, said in a statement. “Given that Abbott cannot dictate where people are sent, he has already backpedaled on this heinous plan, announcing that it will be only voluntary.”
Meanwhile, members of his own party have been critical of the governor. Rep. Matt Schaefer, a Republican from Tyler County, took to Twitter to criticize the governor for the “gimmick.”
Schaefer was echoed by Abbott’s Democratic opponent for governor, Beto O’Rourke, who described the announcement as part of a repeated pattern of favoring empty posturing over impact.
“If Abbott focused on solutions instead of stunts, then Texas could have made some real progress on the issue over the last seven years,” he said in a statement.
State Rep. Mary González, a Democrat from El Paso County and vice chair of the Mexican American Legislative Caucus also denounced Abbott’s announcement as a political stunt.
“Instead of using our tax dollars to drive economic growth and build infrastructure, Governor Abbott is funding political stunts at the expense of Texas families and our troops.”