Sunday, September 24

Texas’s Greg Abbott has spent more than $3m busing migrants out of the state

The Republican governor of Texas has cost his state nearly $3m as he continues to direct state officials to operate a costly program that involves busing hundreds of migrants across the country to Washington DC.

The skyrocketing figure was first reported by The Daily Mail on Monday, citing documents obtained from the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM). The figure encompasses funds spent since mid-April, just two months ago, when the first bus arrived on the doorsteps of Fox News, which touted its arrival as an exclusive, as well as other news agencies.

In about two months, Texas officials have bused just 1,778 migrants to the nation’s capital for a total price tag of $2.9m; that cost has been only slightly offset by a half-hearted attempt to raise money through donations for the effort on the website of the governor’s office. The Mail reports that number had reached just over $100,000 as of the end of May.

The plan has been roundly denounced as an expensive ploy for attention by Greg Abbott’s critics, including in the White House. The number of migrants bused to DC under the plan represents a fraction of the number of migrants believed to be crossing the border into Texas every month.

“I think it’s pretty clear that this is a publicity stunt,” then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in early April, when the plan was first announced.

It isn’t even completely clear under what circumstances the migrants in question are getting on the buses; Texas officials do not have the legal authority to force anyone, including noncitizens, to board buses and be shipped around the country. But the state is within its rights to provide charter buses for those who wish to head to DC voluntarily, and has apparently done so for migrants caught after alleged illegal border crossings. It remains in question whether all those bused to Washington were properly informed of their rights before they got on the buses; many have been forced to accept aid from DC-based support organisations and aid groups upon their arrival. Some, however, have expressed gratitude for the free ride to DC where they can stay or more easily reach relatives living across the US.

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The Independent has reached out to Mr Abbott’s office for comment and the latest fundraising figures from the online campaign.

“As the federal government continues to roll back commonsense policies that once kept our communities safe, our local law enforcement has stepped up to protect Texans from dangerous criminals, deadly drugs, and illegal contraband flooding into the Lone Star State,” his office claimed in April.

Mr Abbott, a first-term governor, is facing a challenge in November in the form of Beto O’Rourke, a former congressman and presidential candidate who has sought to challenge the Republican leader publicly on the issues of his responses to Texas’s energy grid woes as well as the Uvalde school massacre.

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