Former president Donald Trump said Tuesday that he will travel to the U.S.-Mexico border later this month at the invitation of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a critic of Biden administration’s immigration policies that he says have triggered a crisis in his state.
Abbott, a Republican, who is expected to unveil a border security plan Wednesday that could include a state-led crowdfunding effort to build a border wall, declared a disaster for 34 Texas border counties earlier this month, saying the state would “fill in the gaps” where the federal government has failed.
On the same day, Trump endorsed Abbott, who is facing primary competition from the far-right wing of the party in his bid for reelection this fall.
Abbott is coming off one of the most conservative legislative sessions in recent memory, having achieved a partisan checklist of priorities – including a restrictive voting rights bill that failed to pass when Democrats walked out in the waning hours of the session – that served to bolster his conservative credentials.
Trump, meanwhile, is seizing on the Biden administration’s struggles at the border and stepping up his political activities ahead of the midterm elections. The former president appeared at a North Carolina event earlier this month to endorse a candidate in a competitive Senate race and continued to spread falsehoods about the outcome of the 2020 election. Trump also is planning rallies in Ohio next week and in Tampa on July 3.
“The Biden administration inherited from me the strongest, safest, and most secure border in U.S. history and in mere weeks they turned it into the single worst border crisis in U.S. history,” Trump said in a statement released Tuesday on his Gab social media page. “It’s an unmitigated disaster zone.”
The Biden administration has dismantled many Trump-era policies that had been challenged in court or denounced by pro-immigration advocates for endangering or violating the rights of migrants. He also halted border wall construction, terminated Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” program and has scrambled to shelter thousands of migrant children traveling across the border alone.
Since President Joe Biden’s inauguration, the number of migrant children in U.S. custody has declined, thousands of asylum seekers have been allowed to pursue their immigration cases and the administration is working to reunite families separated under Trump. Vice President Kamala Harris traveled to Central America last week to strengthen relationships and talk with leaders about solutions to the root causes of migration.
Still, U.S. Border Patrol agents have been busy managing tens of thousands of families seeking asylum, unaccompanied children and huge numbers of single adults from Central America and beyond sneaking past authorities.
Similar to Trump, Abbott has made border security central to his tenure and reelection bid. He launched an operation in March, when border crossings began climbing, to send state troopers and National Guard troops to assist beleaguered federal agents and officers. He blamed Biden for welcoming migrants from around the world and enriching criminal smuggling organizations that are now causing problems in Texas border communities.
The federal government threatened to sue the Abbott administration after the governor promised to rescind the licenses of state facilities contracted by the Biden administration to house and serve migrant children.
And last week, Abbott organized a border summit, inviting residents, elected officials and local law enforcement officials the governor said he would empower to arrest migrants entering the country illegally, jail them and charge them with state crimes.
Abbott said he wanted to create an environment where people would choose not to cross into Texas, “because it’s not what they were expecting. It’s not the red carpet that the federal administration rolled out to them. They are going to jail in the state of Texas.”
Abbott and Republicans around the country have repeatedly demanded that Biden and Harris visit the southern border as dozens of House and Senate members have sojourned there in recent months. The frequent pilgrimages to the banks of the Rio Grande have yielded little in the way of congressional action on immigration as the number of border apprehensions increased to 180,000 in May, data shows.
“What Biden and Harris have done, and are continuing to do on our border, is a grave and willful dereliction of duty,” Trump said in his statement. “My visit will hopefully shine a spotlight on these crimes against our Nation – and show the incredible people of ICE and Border Patrol that they have our unshakable support.”
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The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey contributed to this report.