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GOP governors announce border plan based on controversial Trump and Abbott policies

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, left, joins other Republican governors like Texas Governor Greg Abbot, right, Texas National Guard
Aaron E. Martinez
American-Sta/USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Co
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, left, joins other Republican governors like Texas Governor Greg Abbot, right, Texas National Guard leaders, and law enforcement officers at a press conference on the Texas-Mexico border in Mission, Texas on Oct. 6, 2021 to speak on the Biden Administration's lack of action on the continuing crisis at the border.

Eleven Republican governors gathered in Mission, Texas to announce a plan they say President Joe Biden must follow to effectively combat the humanitarian crisis created by the record number of migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The plan includes defunct policies from the Trump administration and executive orders enacted by Texas Governor Abbott. Many of these measures have been ruled unconstitutional by federal judges.

“We believe the states are authorized by the United States Constitution to do exactly what Texas is doing under the ten point plan that we are already acting on right now,” said Governor Abbott.

Related: Gov. Abbott is running his own immigration policy. Is it legal?

One of the policies the Texas governor enacted charges migrants caught entering the United States with a state charge of criminal trespassing.

Migrants detained for trespassing are held in Dolph-Briscoe Unit which is a converted prison that now serves as a jail for this purpose. Dolph-Briscoe had to release 200 migrants after holding them for longer than 72 hours without charges, which violates Texas law.

When asked, Abbott said it was the prosecuting attorney’s job to charge and seek the highest possible penalty.

The Republican governors are also pushing for President Biden to maintain the Trump-era Remain in Mexico Policy, which forces asylum-seekers to wait in dangerous conditions in Mexico for their day in U.S. immigration court.

REUTERS/Callaghan O'Hare
Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Texas Governor Greg Abbott exit the stage after visiting an unfinished section of the wall along the U.S.-Mexico border in Pharr, Texas, U.S. June 30, 2021.

The Supreme Court in August ordered the Biden Administration to reinstate the policy. However, there is no indication Mexico will agree to the program’s reinstatement. Immigrant rights activists say this policy — among others — is responsible for the humanitarian crisis among people being forced to wait at the border.

Other actions enumerated in the plan are continuing construction of the border wall and enforcing Title 42, a public health measure that expells migrants without allowing them to seek asylum.

Immigrant rights activists largely criticize Title 42 for violating migrants’ right to seek asylum and lack of evidence they’re more likely to spread disease. The Biden administration’s use of Title 42 to expel migrant families has been ruled unconstitutional, but remains in effect as the Biden administration defends it in court.

The administration sent thousands of Haitian migrants on flights back to their home country after an unprecedented migrant camp grew underneath the Del Rio International Bridge in September.

Related: Hope and despair in Del Rio as Biden administration begins expelling migrants from massive border encampment

Before and after images of migrant camp
A combination of drone pictures shows migrants taking shelter as they wait to be processed near the Del Rio International Bridge after crossing the Rio Grande into the U.S. from Ciudad Acuna in Del Rio, Texas, September 18, 2021 (top), and the makeshift migrant border camp near the Del Rio International Bridge after it was cleared in Del Rio, Texas, U.S. September 24, 2021. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

Biden’s message on immigration has drawn criticism from the right and the left.

“What's happening now represents a missed opportunity for the Biden administration to do what it promised, which was to create a safe, dignified, welcoming border. To use the capacity it has across the border at ports of entry to allow people to make their claims.” said Clara Long, associate director with the US Program at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, what is done is a mix of things continuing harsh Trump policies, stepping back from them in some ways. That is what's causing the increased pressure on resources and capacity.”

Texas Public Radio is supported by contributors to the Border and Immigration News Desk, including the Catena Foundation and Texas Mutual Insurance Company.

In September, twenty-six GOP governors issued a letter to President Joe Biden asking for a meeting to discuss issues along the border. Only two of four states bordering Mexico signed the letter.

President Joe Biden's lack of response drew ire from speakers at the press conference.

Governor Abbott said he is ready to do whatever it takes to secure the border, regardless of Biden’s approval. This includes closing down ports of entry, which falls under the authority of the federal government — not the states.

“We will take any and all action that needs to be taken,” said Abbott. “Our focal point is to try to reduce people who are crossing here illegally.”

According to US Customs and Border Protection, there were 156,641 unique encounters in August 2021.

CBP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Carolina Cuellar reports for Texas Public Radio from the city of McAllen where she covers business and border issues. Her position is made possible by Report For America — a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.
As TPR's news director, Katz leads the organization’s news and journalism efforts, overseeing the newsroom’s day-to-day management and the development of a strategic vision for the news division. He also serves on the organization’s executive leadership team.