Texas Democrats and activists are warning that Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order on immigration bears dangerous resemblances to Arizona’s hardline SB-1070 law, which resulted in racial profiling of Latinos and was overturned by the Supreme Court in 2012.
Abbott’s executive order, announced on Thursday, is the latest in a year of contentious high-profile border policies aimed at blunting what he and other Republicans see as the Biden administration’s failure to stem a growing border crisis.
The order empowers the Texas National Guard and the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to apprehend and return undocumented immigrants who cross the border between ports of entry. It also seeks to involve Texas in immigration enforcement, which is the responsibility of the federal government and was a point of contention when Arizona attempted to pass its own immigration law with SB-1070. Keep an eye on
Abbott claimed that by failing to faithfully implement immigration laws passed by Congress, Biden has “abandoned the covenant” in Article IV, Section 4 of the Constitution, which states that the United States “shall protect each [State in this Union] against Invasion.”
Democrats were outraged by the order and Abbott’s comments about it.
“This is unconstitutional, dangerous, and irresponsible,” Democratic Representative Veronica Escobar of El Paso tweeted. “He knows this isn’t an invasion.” According to Mario Carrillo, campaigns manager for the immigration advocacy group America’s Voice, the order recalls the racial profiling of SB-1070 and could make his parents, who are US citizens and live in El Paso, a target.
Carrillo is concerned that Abbott’s order will force his parents to leave their home.
Abbott’s executive order was dubbed a “horrifying political stunt” by Angelica Razo, the Texas state director of Familia Vota, a national grassroots organization.
“This is a terrifying development for all Texas families,” she told Newsweek, “because law enforcement or any individual can now target someone because of the color of their skin or their accent. We demand to hear from the governor how he expects to enforce this law, as it will be very difficult to enforce without racially profiling people.”
Democrats plan to continue criticizing the “invasion” rhetoric on Wednesday, with Escobar joining Greg Casar, an Austin City Council member and congressional candidate, and other groups on an America’s Voice call.
America’s Voice will track Republican ads and social media that “fan racism and encourage violence,” according to the organization.
Democrats and advocates are stunned by the continued use of the word “invasion” in relation to immigration, because the shooter who drove 10 hours to El Paso in 2019 was motivated by invasion fears and set out to intentionally kill Mexican-Americans and Latinos in a hate-crime shooting that left 23 dead.
Former Abbott spokesman John Wittman said the governor is frustrated by federal inaction.
Even Texas Republicans who agree with Abbott share Democrats’ and Latino activists’ concerns that the language of Abbott’s executive order will lead to overreach and profiling.
Abbott’s “language is a bit dangerous,” according to Artemio Muiz, chair of the Texas Federation of Hispanic Republicans.
“Lost in the midst of the chaos is the perspective of the Mexican immigrant who has been here for 15 years, works as a roofer, has earned equity, and qualifies as an American,” he said, citing longtime Texas residents as the type of “hardworking” immigrants he advocates for. “I understand that Governor Abbott must carry out the law, but the rhetoric must be clarified because there may be instances of good, hardworking immigrants being targeted.”
Both Democrats and Republicans believe immigration issues will benefit their candidates in the governor’s race between Abbott and former congressman Beto O’Rourke.
Former Abbott spokesman Wittman said immigration and the border are “top of mind” for Texas voters, and O’Rourke lacks solutions to the border problems.
The O’Rourke campaign has primarily focused on power grid failures, increased gun control in the aftermath of the Uvalde school shooting, and the repeal of Roe v. Wade federal abortion protections. However, there is now hope on the left that he will draw contrasts with Abbott on immigration.