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Texas governor authorizes state police to return migrants to border

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Texas Governor Greg Abbott tours the US-Mexico border at the Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas in May 2022./AFP
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Jul 08, 2022 - 11:39 AM

WASHINGTON — The governor of Texas on Thursday signed an order authorizing state law enforcement to detain migrants who have illegally crossed the border from Mexico, flouting the federal government’s usual authority over US immigration matters.

“The state of Texas is once again stepping up and taking unprecedented action to protect Americans and secure the southern border,” Republican Governor Greg Abbott said in a statement.

The executive order empowers the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Safety “to apprehend illegal immigrants who illegally cross the border between ports of entry and return them to the border,” the statement said.

Abbott has long attacked Democrats in Washington for allegedly being soft on immigration, and said Thursday that the measure was needed because US President Joe Biden “refuses to do his job and enforce the immigration laws enacted by Congress.”

The order sets up a potential legal conflict between Texas and the federal government, which generally handles immigration and foreign relations policies, though it is so far unclear how the order will be implemented.

The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to an AFP request for comment.

The Mexican government meanwhile dismissed the order, saying the country would only discuss immigration policy on the federal level, which it pointed out is also the usual convention in the United States.

“Therefore, this action can only be understood as part of the electoral campaign in the state of Texas,” the Mexican government said in a statement Thursday night, referring to upcoming November polls that include the race for governor.

Migration numbers from Mexico into the United States have remained high in recent months. In May, authorities detained more than 239,000 people on the Mexican border, a record, though the figure also includes those who tried to enter the US multiple times.

Abbott’s order also comes just a week after a ruling from the US Supreme Court gave Biden’s administration the green light to end the so-called Remain in Mexico policy instituted by former president Donald Trump in 2019.

The policy sent some non-Mexicans who entered the United States illegally back across the southern border to wait while their immigration cases made their way through the courts, instead of being detained or provisionally released.

Biden’s attempt to terminate the policy was challenged by a group of Republican-governed states led by Texas.

Migrants crossing into the United States from Mexico, many of whom have traveled from Central America, face an arduous and often dangerous journey, which can include harsh natural conditions and the risk of mistreatment by human traffickers.

Just last week 53 people died after being packed inside a tractor-trailer truck without air conditioning that was abandoned in San Antonio, Texas.

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