Dallas

Gov. Greg Abbott Warns of Migrant ‘Caravans,’ Brags About Installing Razor Wire Along Border

Gov. Greg Abbott is at it again, warning of the supposed threat posed by people seeking refuge and asylum at our state’s southern border.

An “invasion,” he and other Texas Republicans have said.

Abbott, who’s up for reelection in November, sounded the alarm in a tweet on Monday. The immigrants are coming, he warned, and he knows just how to stop them: thousands of feet of wire equipped with sharp blades that can inflict severe lacerations. Sometimes, they can even cause death.

“Texas is the only state in the history of our country to install mile after mile of concertina razor wire along the border to deter illegal immigration,” Abbott boasted in the tweet. “We are expanding that effort to prepare for the threat of caravans coming through Mexico.”

Many Texas Republicans have backed Abbott’s clampdown on the U.S.-Mexico border. Last March, Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, deploying state national guard and Department of Public Safety troops to the border.

According to a Dallas Morning News-University of Texas at Tyler poll published in May, more than half of Texans surveyed supported those deployments. (Voters remained split on Abbott’s efforts to build the state’s own wall on the border.)

He also provided a link to a FOX News piece explaining that the state’s national guard is now using the wire along the Rio Grande. Advocates say the move won’t discourage people from trying to cross and fear that it contributes to an uptick in rhetoric that encourages anti-immigrant attacks — attacks like the 2019 El Paso Walmart slaughter that killed 23 people. The suspect, a 21-year-old white man, had explained in his hate-filled manifesto that the mass shooting was “a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Caravans will be coming through Mexico, Abbott claims. Where have we heard that before? That’s right: Former President Donald Trump whipped up a frenzy ahead of the 2018 midterms, falsely stating a caravan composed of “criminals and unknown Middle Easterners” was fast approaching the United States.

The Atlantic reported at the time that the hysteria led to the Pittsburgh Tree of Life synagogue mass shooting, which killed 11 worshippers. The white nationalist suspect blamed Jews for aiding the so-called caravan.

In April, the number of people apprehended on the southern border slumped slightly but remained at a 22-year high.

But a caravan isn’t coming, said Efrén C. Olivares, the immigrant justice deputy legal director for the Southern Poverty Law Center. Abbott, like Trump, is oversimplifying the issue of immigration.

We should have a humane and functional asylum and immigration system, Olivares said. But Abbott’s tweet was simply part of his electoral campaign, not part of a serious immigration policy discussion, he added.

“It’s rhetoric to pander to his base, to the anti-immigrant supporters of Governor Abbott for whom a simplistic message such as concertina wire is appealing, but it’s not serious,” Olivares said. “It’s a medieval response to a 21st-century issue, just like the wall.”

“Doubling down on cruelty is not going to serve any useful purpose other than appealing to the basest element of American politics.” – Bill Holston, Human Rights Initiative of North Texas

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In some cases, razor wire has claimed the lives of migrants across the world, including a Senegalese man who reportedly attempted to scale a fence from Morocco into a Spanish exclave in 2005, according to The Guardian.

Using this anti-immigrant language stokes the flames of hatred and works to paint refugees and asylum seekers as criminals, Olivares said. He added that the kind of rhetoric deployed by Abbott and other politicians is moving white supremacists and anti-immigrant extremists to action. “It’s literally endangering people’s lives as a result,” he said.

The term “caravan” implies a planned assault on the border and is intended to scare people, said Bill Holston, executive director for the Human Rights Initiative of North Texas. But the border is already a dangerous place, brutally hot and harsh and difficult to cross.

Mean-spirited tactics won’t stop people who are seeking refuge in the U.S., he argued. They’ll just wind up getting injured by the wire, or they may traverse ever-more dangerous stretches of the border.

In Big Bend National Park, temperatures can sometimes soar up to 117 degrees, Holston noted. People may travel at night and carry water jugs, but they’ll keep trying to escape “lives that are totally untenable.”

Transgender people from El Salvador, Guatemalan farmers and others escaping widespread gang violence, prolonged droughts or civil unrest will attempt to reach the U.S. to survive, hoping to provide better lives for their families, he said. The world is seeing unprecedented levels of migration because of political turmoil and climate change. The number of refugees will likely continue to grow.

Somehow, U.S. resources are often diverted to help asylum seekers from places like Ukraine but skip people of color, Holston said. We’ve shuttled planeloads of migrants back to genocide-like conditions, for instance, but people will continue to come. Some don’t really have any other choice.

“You can have a legitimate debate about how we should deal with refugees at the border,” he said. “But doubling down on cruelty is not going to serve any useful purpose other than appealing to the basest element of American politics.”



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