'Tricky business': Greg Abbott used pandemic relief funds to ship migrants out of Texas
Of the four U.S. states that share a border with Mexico, two of them have Democratic governors (California and New Mexico), while two of them have GOP governors (Arizona and Texas). Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, whose 2022 reelection campaign has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, has been an aggressive, vocal supporter of building a wall on the U.S./Mexico border — and according to reporting in The Nation, Abbott diverted $1 billion in pandemic relief dollars to wall construction, shipping migrants out of the state and other projects that were part of his Operation Lone Star program.
In an article published by The Nation on October 6, journalist Barbara Koeppel reports, “In spring 2021, he declared Southern Texas ‘a disaster area’ overrun by marauding migrants, thanks to what he labels President Joe Biden’s ‘open-border policies.’ To stem the flow, Abbott launched Operation Lone Star (OLS), marshaling the Texas National Guard and state troopers to beef up security at the border with Mexico. He also tapped the OLS budget for his recent headline-grabbing scheme to bus 12,000 migrants to Washington, D.C., New York City, and Chicago since last spring.”
Koeppel continues, “But this was tricky business, since OLS was going to be colossally costly. To come up with the funds he needed, Abbott practiced some accounting so creative some might call it magic. Others might label it fraud.”
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Funds meant for COVID-19 relief, journalist John Bowden reports in The Independent, were used “for his program designed to bus groups of migrants out of Texas and around the continental U.S.”
“It’s a shocking direct decision to ignore the stated purpose of those funds that seems to have been made legal through loopholes allowing states to recoup lost revenues,” Bowden notes.
Koeppel reports, “During Texas’ regular 2021 legislative session, Abbott got the Republican-controlled legislature to approve $1.1 billion to pay for 700 border guards and their supplies. He soon, however, decided this amount was too small and summoned the lawmakers back for a special session at the end of August. This time, he asked for another almost $1.9 billion to pay another 1800 guards/troopers and build a border wall, called Operation Steel Curtain, under the OLS program. Happy to accommodate the honcho in chief, the legislators approved his request.”
In Texas’ 2022 gubernatorial race, Abbott is being challenged by Democratic nominee Beto O’Rourke. Polls released in late September showed the incumbent governor with single-digit leads over O’Rourke, including 7 percent (Quinnipiac) and 8 percent (The Hill/Emerson College).
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