Texas Governor Greg Abbott applauded border enforcement for a miles-long ‘steel barrier’ of vehicles deterring Haitian migrants at Del Rio

Greg Abbott border
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks to reporters at a news conference along the Texas border. Julio Cortez/The Associated Press
  • Texas Governor Greg Abbott lauded state troopers for erecting a “steel barrier” of vehicles to stop people from crossing into the US.
  • He said Texas is sending a message to those thinking about crossing the border that they may be jailed.
  • Thousands of refugees seeking to enter the US are camped underneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas.
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Texas Governor Greg Abbott praised border officials and state troopers on Tuesday for erecting a “steel barrier” of police vehicles stretching miles along the southern US border to deter Haitian migrants from crossing into the state.

“One day there were countless people coming across the border, then that very same day the Texas Department of Public Safety put up all these DPS vehicles, and suddenly, in an instant, people stopped crossing the border in this location,” he said at a news conference.

Abbott added that the state is taking “unprecedented steps” to control the border, and is sending a message to anyone who tries to cross the Rio Grande river that they “may wind up having handcuffs on their hands going straight to jail.”

Thousands of Haitian refugees are camped underneath a bridge in Del Rio, Texas – a border town of around 35,000 on the about 150 miles (241km) west of San Antonio. Migrants there are fleeing Haiti after the assassination of their president Jovenel Moïse in July and a 7.2 magnitude earthquake rocked the country in August. Reports differ on exactly how many migrants are now gathered at the Texan border, but estimates place the number at around 8,000 people after some were sent back or processed by immigration authorities.

Footage of border enforcement confronting migrants on horseback with whips has sparked criticism from the White House and politicians, and prompted the Department of Homeland Security to launch an investigation. Some are decrying the situation as inhumane and cruel.

As Abbott spoke to reporters on Tuesday, he blamed President Joe Biden for not doing enough to secure the southern border, and said the president’s lax policies led to the flood of illegal immigrants in Del Rio, per CNN.

“When you have an administration that is not enforcing the law in this country, when you have an administration that has abandoned any pretense of securing the border and securing our sovereignty, you see the onrush of people like what we saw walking across this dam that is right behind me,” he told the network.

It’s unclear why so many migrants have amassed at Del Rio so quickly, but misinformation that the border would be easier to cross there may have played a part, reported The New York Times.

“False information, misinformation and misunderstanding might have created a false sense of hope,” Guerline M. Jozef, the executive director of the Haitian Bridge Alliance, a group that works with migrants, told The Times.

The Biden administration had been denying immigrants at the border under Title 42, a Trump-era immigration policy that allows migrants to be deported as a measure to keep COVID-19 from spreading. However, last week a judge ruled that Title 42 was “likely unlawful” and issued a preliminary injunction against it. The Biden administration has said they are appealing the decision.