Nov 27, 2023 - News

What Texas spends on busing migrants

Illustration of a dollar sign made out of buses with the centerline made from the double yellow lines on a road.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Texas has spent $86.1 million and counting to bus migrants and asylum-seekers out of the state.

Why it matters: What started as a Texas GOP effort before last year's gubernatorial election has led to leaders in multiple cities and states, including many Democrats, spending significant resources on long-term attempts to send migrants to other parts of the country amid record border migration levels.

By the numbers: Texas has taken the most aggressive approach toward the border, sending state law enforcement to patrol and busing more than 66,200 migrants and asylum-seekers to other states since April 2022.

  • The state has spent roughly $1,650 per person between April 2022 and October 2023 on these efforts, according to data obtained by Axios through the Texas Public Information Act.
  • The Texas Division of Emergency Management "uses funds appropriated by the Texas Legislature for border security and donated funds to support the state bus operation," agency spokesperson Wes Rapaport tells Axios.
  • Axios has filed an open records request for the source and amount of the donated money.

Yes, but: Texas officials don't coordinate with the cities — including Washington, D.C.; New York; and Chicago — receiving the migrants.

The big picture: The Texas Legislature has also allocated nearly $10 billion for Operation Lone Star, the state's latest border security initiative that began in 2021.

  • Earlier this month, Texas House lawmakers approved appropriating an additional $1.5 billion for more border barriers.
  • The Texas attorney general's office did not respond to an Axios request for how much it has spent defending Gov. Greg Abbott's border policies in court — and attacking President Biden's.

What they're saying: "Abbott's busing program does nothing to create real solutions along our border, protect vulnerable migrants from those who would prey on them, or provide help to the communities working to receive them," Edna Yang, co-executive director of American Gateways, an Austin-based nonprofit that provides legal services for immigrants, tells Axios.

  • "Our immigration system is broken and instead of working with the federal government to look for ways to fix it, Governor Abbott has chosen to waste millions of hard-earned taxpayer dollars on a political stunt that will help no one."

The other side: "Until President Biden upholds his constitutional duty to secure America's southern border, Texas will continue to deploy as many buses as needed to relieve the strain caused by the surge of illegal crossings," Abbott said in September.

  • Operation Lone Star has led to more than 33,000 felony charges and the seizing of more than 435 million potentially lethal doses of fentanyl, per the governor's office in mid-November.

Our thought bubble: As long as stiffer border protection is popular among voters — and opinion polls show that Republicans overwhelmingly support it — Texas lawmakers and the governor will continue to pour money into it.

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