Abbott's bus to Washington ups stakes in GOP-Biden border fight

Temperatures in the immigration fight between Republicans and President Biden rose Wednesday after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott sent a bus of migrants to Washington in an effort to bring issues at the southern border to the White House’s doorstep.

The Biden administration called the move a “publicity stunt,” a term that White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated on Wednesday when asked about the bus’s arrival. 

Psaki also appeared to mock Abbott’s intentions.

“These are all migrants who have been processed by CBP [Customs and Border Protection] and are free to travel, so, it’s nice that the state of Texas is helping them get to their final destination,” Psaki told reporters, adding that the passengers were awaiting outcomes of immigration proceedings.

Abbott directed his state’s Division of Emergency Management to bring migrants in Texas to the nation’s capital last week in response to the Biden administration’s move to wind down Title 42, a sweeping border restriction policy implemented during the COVID-19 pandemic.

When asked if the White House has been in touch with the migrants who arrived in Washington on Wednesday, Psaki said that since they were all in immigration proceedings, they had been in touch with other federal entities.

Fox News aired live footage of dozens of migrants exiting the bus and walking around the city around 8:15 a.m. on Wednesday, with Abbott raising tensions even further when he announced the first bus had dropped people off near the Capitol, on the other side of Pennsylvania Avenue.

“Biden refuses to come see the mess he’s made at the border. So Texas is bringing the border to him,” Abbott said.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) bashed the GOP governor, accusing him of using immigrants as props to embarrass the White House.

“Republican leaders don’t see immigrants as human. Just props to get some laughs and clicks,” Murphy said. “And let’s be 100% clear. The idea was to savage Biden and Democrats no matter what they did.”

Title 42, which will officially end on May 23, was first imposed under the Trump administration in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic and allowed migrants to be expelled at the border due to the public health crisis.

The move to rescind Title 42 came after months of pressure on the Biden administration from immigrant advocacy groups and Democratic allies but was met with backlash from lawmakers, including several centrists in the president’s own party who face tough reelection bids in November.

Republicans are homing in on immigration as a top issue during the midterms and are focused on the border as they try to flip enough seats in November to take back the House and the Senate. 

The Republican National Committee has debuted a video series on immigration titled “Unchecked,” and Republican candidates looking to unseat Democrats in districts near the border have used immigration as a top attack issue.

Biden tapped Vice President Harris to lead the effort to address the root causes of migration early in the administration. 

Harris’s office did not provide comment when asked about the bus of migrants arriving from Texas.

Meanwhile, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said Wednesday, “Hopefully this gets liberal elites and the Biden administration to actually care about the millions of illegal aliens who are streaming across our southern border.”

His comments echo those of Abbott, who said last week that the migrants were being sent to the capital, “where the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the needs of the people that they are allowing to come across our border.”

The White House has also shot back at Abbott for the delays caused by his order for state troops to step up truck inspections at the Texas border, another directive Abbott implemented after Biden announced Title 42 would be rescinded earlier this month.

Truckers at the Mexico-Texas border are facing hours of delays, and commercial traffic has dropped by 60 percent, according to the White House.

Psaki called the inspections “unnecessary and redundant” and said they are “causing significant disruptions to the food and automobile supply chains, delaying manufacturing, impacting jobs, and raising prices for families in Texas and across the country.”

When asked if the White House is blaming Abbott for inflation, Psaki said that the delays at the Texas border are “self-inflicted gridlock” and are “significantly impacting the local and regional supply chains.”

Democratic National Committee Chairman Jaime Harrison accused Abbott and Republicans of wrecking the economy and government for political gain.

“Abbott is emblematic of the GOP. They don’t give a damn for the welfare, health & livelihoods of their constituents (see covid, TX Ice storm) & they purposely try to wreck our economy, govt., & elections for political gain,” he said, sharing a post from Democrat Beto O’Rourke, who is running against Abbott for governor of Texas, about the trucks lined up at the border.

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