Feb 4, 2024 - Politics & Policy

House Dems say Texas' Greg Abbott inciting potential border violence

Members of the rightwing "Take Our Border Back'" caravan gather in Texas for a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border.

Members of the rightwing "Take Our Border Back'" caravan gather in Texas for a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border. Photo: Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu via Getty Images

Democratic U.S. House members are accusing Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) of inciting violence at the U.S.-Mexico border by using bigoted language about a border "invasion" and encouraging a rightwing convoy to come to the region.

Driving the news: Around 200 vehicles carrying Trump supporters, Christian nationalists and conspiracy theorists have descended on Quemado, Texas for a "Take Our Border Back" rally amid a standoff between Abbott and President Biden over immigration enforcement.

  • The Democratic congressional members, all from Texas, said Abbott is being irresponsible and is creating an environment for violence instead of looking for solutions to fixing a broken immigration system.

The big picture: Since Monday, the convoy has made its way to the border to stand against migrants attempting to cross into the U.S. illegally or seeking asylum.

  • The convoy has been encouraged by some Republicans and right-leaning pundits who point to images of migrants trying to get into the U.S.
  • The gathering was billed as a precursor to a civil war and promoted on white nationalist online forums.

Catch up fast: The Supreme Court's decision last month allowing the removal of razor wire at the Texas border is one win for the Biden administration in a more significant battle over federal authority in the state.

  • Abbott last year installed miles of barriers using barbed wire and buoys along the Rio Grande in response to record numbers of migrants arriving at the border.
  • He has also sent the Texas National Guard to the region, a move that has generated accusations that the Guard is standing in the way of federal agents.

Federal attorneys cited the drowning deaths of a woman and two children in the Rio Grande as an example of how border agents, who were not allowed past a fence installed by Texas, weren't able to do their jobs and respond to the incident.

Zoom in: Images from the convoy showed a largely peaceful gathering that was well short of the promised 700,000 trucks, though Confederate and white Christian nationalist flags were on display.

What they're saying: "Gov. Abbott understands by now that when he calls this an invasion that he's putting a target on people's backs," Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) said Sunday during a press conference.

  • Abbott and rightwing pundits are stirring "the most virulent anti-immigrant sentiment in a generation," which will lead to racial profiling of U.S. Latinos, Castro said.
  • Castro said the members of the convoy have harassed residents and made threats to at least one U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility.
  • Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said he's gotten reports of armed convoy members walking around Eagle Pass, Texas, to "patrol" the city.

The other side: A spokesman for Abbott told Axios on Monday to refer to the governor's comments from a press conference held on Sunday.

  • Abbott doubled down during the press conference, saying states had a right to defend themselves against an imminent danger posed by an "invasion."
  • "He has aided and abided illegal entry," Abbott said, referring to Biden.

Between the lines: For months now, some Republicans, right-wing pundits and personalities have visited the border and shared images from the trips online.

  • "Some these people and the state have made Eagle Pass a movie set, literally a movie set," Cuellar said.

The bottom line: The latest standoff shows Republicans and Democrats remain far apart on any solutions around immigration and political theater is likely all the country will get leading up to the 2024 election.

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