Greg Abbott Accuses Biden of Using Migrants as “Political Pawns”

The accusation comes after Texas’ governor grabbed headlines by bussing thousands north.

Eric Gay/AP

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It seems like Texas Gov. Greg Abbott could use a dictionary. 

Why? Because on Sunday, the Republican went on Fox News and accused President Joe Biden of “using illegal immigrants as political pawns.” And given his own record, it is unclear if understands what the word means. 

Chessboards aside, Oxford Languages says a pawn is “a person used by others for their own purposes.” This, of course, describes how Abbott has himself treated migrants who have crossed the border into Texas.

Since 2022, he bussed thousands of them to Democratic-controlled New York City and Washington, D.C. The arrival of more than 150,000 migrants in New York since that time has created a humanitarian crisis that the city government has struggled to adequately manage, leaving many migrants bearing harsh conditions and stuck in shelters.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has sued more than a dozen charter bus contractors that helped transport the migrants to the city under Abbott’s direction, alleging that the companies violated the city’s Social Services Law, which requires that anyone who brings “a needy person from out of state” to New York City to cover the resulting expenses. Last month, one of the bus companies agreed in court papers to halt transporting migrants from the southern border to the city, Politico reported

But this week, when Abbott came to New York for a Republican fundraiser, he made it clear he has no plans to stop sending migrants to New York for his own purposes—at least for as long as Biden remains president. “We are going to have to maintain this process until we get a new president this next November who will secure the border for the United States of America,” the governor told the gathering, according to Gothamist.

Late last year, Abbott signed a law making undocumented immigration into Texas a state crime and allowing state law enforcement officials to arrest undocumented immigrants anywhere inside its boundaries. The issue is wrapped up in litigation, with Biden’s Department of Justice arguing that the law violates the Constitution, which “assigns the federal government the authority to regulate immigration and manage our international borders.”

The reason behind Abbott’s rhetoric isn’t hard to pin down: Draconian anti-immigration policies—including separating children from their parents—have become a cornerstone of today’s GOP, who don’t actually seem interested in funding border security, given that Republican lawmakers recently blocked a bipartisan bill to do just that. 

While Abbott’s threat to keep busing immigrants north could further burnish his anti-immigrant credentials, it pales when compared to another he made earlier this year. As I reported in January, he told a right-wing radio host that “the only thing that we are not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border—because, of course, the Biden administration would charge us with murder.”

That’s what we’d call using immigrants as political pawns. 

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