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Gov. Abbott is again adding truck inspections along the border. Critics say he’s playing politics.

 Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference in Eagle Pass Wednesday, where he announced the implementation of inspections of commercial vehicles along the border.
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Gov. Greg Abbott held a press conference in Eagle Pass Wednesday, where he announced the implementation of inspections of commercial vehicles along the border.

Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday additional inspections of commercial vehicles along the border.

The governor's proposal came after dozens of people were found dead in a tractor trailer in San Antonio earlier this week. He said inspecting commercial vehicles could help deter drug smuggling and human trafficking.

Abbott said the new state-sponsored inspections of commercial trucks are in response to a lack of strong immigration policy from President Joe Biden.

"In Texas we, once again, are going to try to step up and play a role by the state, to address this catastrophe that president Biden is responsible for,” Abbott said during a press conference Wednesday in Eagle Pass.

The policy is similar to one briefly put in place two months ago that led to hours-long delays at the points of entry.

Critics say it is not effective, and claim the Republican is just scoring political points.

“These migrants were actually being smuggled through an illicit entryway, in a truck,” Aileen Teague, an assistant professor of international affairs at Texas A&M University, said. “So, there's a lot more complexity here than what the governor would necessarily have us believe in looking at the tweet and kind of oversimplifying the solutions.”

She added checkpoints and over-militarizing the border through the Operation Lone Star initiative is flawed.

“History has shown that an escalation of people on the border — border policing officials and … drug enforcement agents and cops, don't necessarily correspond to keeping people out,” Teague said.

Between 1994 and 2000, the U.S. doubled the size of its border patrol, Teague said. At the same time, illegal immigration from Mexico to the United States reached its apex.

But she said pushing that false narrative could help Abbott continue to fire up his political base.

Abbott is running for reelection against Beto O’Rourke. A recent poll by Quinnipiac University has Abbott leading O’Rourke by just five points.

Abbott has used his platform of immigration — and the tragedy in San Antonio — to attack Biden.

On Monday, he tweeted the deaths were “a result of his deadly open border policies.”

On Tuesday, he doubled down on his remarks.

“These deaths are on Joe Biden,” Abbott told the right-wing podcast Clay and Buck. “Because of Joe Biden’s policies that attract people to come across the border signaling that the border is open.”

Greg Casar, a Democrat running for Congress in a district that includes San Antonio, said Abbott is acting like he’s running for president.

“He didn't put out a tweet calling it a tragedy. He didn't say a prayer for the children who were found there, who are in the hospital,” Casar told The Texas Newsroom.

He suggested Abbott has some responsibility for the deaths of the people in San Antonio.

“He's been the kind of person pushing anti-immigrant policies and hatred, sending troops to the border, blocking entrances to the state, pushing immigrants into the shadows, and into hiding in trucks,” Casar said. “He's just basically gloating, and spreading more anti-immigrant hate and it is just so wrong.”

Copyright 2022 KUT 90.5. To see more, visit KUT 90.5.

Sergio Martínez-Beltrán is Nashville Public Radio’s political reporter. Prior to moving to Nashville, Sergio covered education for the Standard-Examiner newspaper in Ogden, Utah. He is a Puerto Rico native and his work has also appeared on NPR station WKAR, San Antonio Express-News, Inter News Service, GFR Media and WMIZ 1270 AM.