Surrounded by 13 Republican governors Sunday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated his control over a section of the southern U.S. border and promised to expand that area—part of a growing feud between the outspoken GOP leader and President Joe Biden’s administration.
Abbott spoke, flanked by his GOP governor counterparts, at a press conference in Eagle Pass, a small border town next to the city of Piedras Negras in Mexico. A statement said Abbott had provided the governors a briefing on Operation Lone Star, launched by Abbott in 2021 in response to the border crisis, before the group appeared in front of cameras.
Among those who spoke alongside Abbott were Governor of Tennessee and Chairman of the Republican Governors Association Bill Lee, who added he is prepared to send more of his own state’s troops to the border to assist Abbott.
Tennessee, along with 13 other states—including Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Idaho, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Virginia, West Virginia, and Wyoming—have already deployed personnel and resources to aid Operation Lone Star.
In full, Abbott was joined by Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb, Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds, Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry, Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson, Montana Gov. Greg Gianforte, Nebraska Gov. Jill Pillen, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, and Utah Gov. Spencer Cox.
Although the federal government nominally controls immigration policy, Abbott has been locked in battle with the Biden administration over border enforcement in recent months. Initially a disagreement over whether or not Texas authorities had the right to lay razor wire and station state troops at the border, Abbott then began to claim that Texas has been left to fend for itself.
In December, Abbott signed a controversial Texas law, known as SB4, which put immigration enforcement in the hands of state officers.
Following the law’s enactment, Texas has continually ignored the Biden Administration’s immigration orders—and even a Supreme Court ruling which allowed federal agents to remove the razor wire laid by state authorities, but conveniently did not address whether Texas had to stop laying it in the first place.
Last month, tensions were raised when Texas National Guard troops seized Shelby Park—a public space within within Eagle Pass—and denied access to federal Border Patrol agents. In a statement on Sunday, Abbott said the Texas National Guard and Department of Public Safety “continues to hold the line.”
Abbott added that Eagle Pass was just the beginning of his attempts to control the border, telling reporters: “As we speak right now, the Texas National Guard, they’re undertaking operations to expand this effort.
“We’re not going to contain ourselves to this park. We are expanding to further areas to make sure we expand our level of deterrence and denial of illegal entry into the United States.”
“Joe Biden, it is your turn now—your obligation, your duty, to follow the laws Congress passed and secure the border, just as Texas has, Abbott said.
According to The Texas Tribune, citing pool reports, deputy director of Texas DPS’s Homeland Security Operations Lt. Col. Freeman Martin told the visiting governors Sunday that the razor wire—and similarly controversial buoy barriers placed into the Rio Grande River—“save lives.”
Abbott at the press conference also claimed gang members, including those on the terrorist watch list were “apprehended all the time.”
While only 13 governors were present Sunday, 25 Republican governors came out in support of Abbott in a joint statement in January, saying they believe Texas has a legal right to defend its border and that they “stand in solidarity with our fellow Governor, Greg Abbott, and the State of Texas in utilizing every tool and strategy, including razor wire fences, to secure the border.”
The Sunday appearance came shortly before the announcement of a long-awaited bill by U.S. senators that proposes major changes to the country’s border and immigration policies, but with criticism spilling from the GOP, it faces an uncertain future.
Meanwhile on Saturday, the White House confirmed President Joe Biden spoke to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, with the pair discussing “challenges at our shared border and committed to continuing their productive partnership.”
A statement added: “The two leaders reiterated their shared commitment to bolster our joint efforts to counter transnational criminal organizations involved in the illicit trafficking of drugs, guns, and people. They agreed to continue close cooperation between our two governments in improving the lives of Americans and Mexicans and in advancing opportunities throughout the Western Hemisphere.”