WASHINGTON — Scores of House Republicans, including a dozen from Texas, have co-sponsored a proposal requiring federal agencies to provide a week’s notice to state and local officials before sending migrants into their jurisdictions.
Many of those same lawmakers, however, are now cheering governors in Texas and Florida as they surprise Democratic mayors in Washington, D.C., New York and other cities with unannounced buses and planes loaded with migrants.
The apparent disconnect has prompted suggestions of hypocrisy that came up when Rep. Beth Van Duyne, R-Irving, appeared this week on CNN.
“If you think it should be law that the federal government notifies the states, why shouldn’t the states be required to notify cities that they’re sending migrants?” the interviewer asked Van Duyne. “Is it politically just convenient to be against the Democratic administration and not require that of Republican governors?”
Van Duyne pushed back on the idea she’s trying to have it both ways, saying border security and immigration enforcement are the federal government’s responsibilities and Democrats are in denial about the situation.
“You can’t complain that you got people coming in and not being notified, at the same time arguing that your borders are closed,” Van Duyne said. “They’re not. We do have open borders and every city now is seeing those results.”
Democrats have strongly denounced the migrant bus gambit – led most prominently by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis – as political theater featuring the migrants themselves as human pawns.
After migrants from Texas were dropped off earlier this month outside Vice President Kamala Harris’ official residence at the Naval Observatory in Washington, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre highlighted the lack of notice involved as evidence of the plan’s callousness.
“The fact that Fox News — and not the Department of Homeland Security, the city, or local [nongovernmental organizations] — were alerted about a plan to leave migrants, including children, on the side of a busy D.C. street makes clear that this is just a cruel, premeditated political stunt,” she said.
Some Republicans who backed the bill requiring the feds to notify locals have responded to such statements by defending the utility of political stunts in the name of getting Democrats to pay attention to an ongoing crisis.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Houston, said the buses spotlight border security lapses and expose hypocrisy by Democrats who are “clutching their pearls” now.
“People are like, ‘It’s political theater!’ Yeah, good,” Crenshaw said. “That’s the point.”
Another co-sponsor, Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Tyler, was clear he takes an ends-justify-the-means view of the situation, noting that Democrats have fought against the proposal to require the administration to provide notification.
Gohmert said he has heard complaints from counties about migrants being transported without any heads-up from federal authorities, and hopes Democrats will learn from this experience that “a little notice would be a good idea,” then work on the issue in a bipartisan fashion.
“We know it’s unfair,” Gohmert said of not notifying locals. “But we’re not going to be able to get anything done until Democrats realize it.”
Other Texas Republicans who have co-sponsored the bill requiring feds to notify local authorities about impending migrant transfers are Reps. Ronny Jackson of Amarillo, Brian Babin of Woodville, Michael Burgess of Pilot Point, August Pfluger of San Angelo, Troy Nehls of Richmond, Jake Ellzey of Midlothian, Randy Weber of Friendswood, Pat Fallon of Sherman and Roger Williams of Austin.
Jackson said the lack of notice simply follows the administration’s example. He described himself as a “big supporter” of Abbott’s tactics as a way to drive home what border states are facing.
“It’s great that finally some of the Democrats around the country and some of these mayors and governors in these blue states and cities are suddenly noticing that there’s an issue on the southern border,” Jackson said.
Williams also defended the migrant buses by saying the Biden administration has been “sending flights in the middle of the night” to cities in Texas and elsewhere.
“Our governor has no choice but to move illegals who volunteered to go to sanctuary jurisdictions to ease the burden on our communities and the consequences of this Administration’s open-border agenda,” Williams said in a statement.
Burgess said small Texas communities are dealing with the ongoing influx of migrants, a crisis that creates problems for local schools and homeless shelters but has been ignored by too many.
“People only seemed to wake up when 50 migrants were sent to Martha’s Vineyard, when it was declared a humanitarian crisis,” Burgess said in a statement. “What about the humanitarian crisis at the border? True border towns are asking for more refrigerators to house bodies. Children are going missing and being trafficked while federal agencies are acting like this is business as normal.”
Burgess also said Abbott put New York, Washington and Chicago on notice via news reports that he would be sending them migrants if the federal government did not resolve the border crisis.
Critics of the Texas and Florida tactics cite reports of misleading promises and coercion, particularly with a planeload of Venezuelan asylum seekers that Florida flew from San Antonio to Martha’s Vineyard, an upscale resort island in Massachusetts.
Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said he was glad to see the Bexar County sheriff open a criminal investigation into the conduct of DeSantis and “everybody else associated with fraudulently deceiving people into going to a remote location like Martha’s Vineyard and abandoning them there.”
Castro and others have called for a Justice Department probe into potential deception or coercion.
“These guys are immature Trump imitators and it’s sadistic behavior when you’re lying to people who are destitute….Some of them have children with them and then you’re dumping them in the middle of nowhere,” Castro said of Abbott and DeSantis.
Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, delivered floor speeches this week calling for bipartisan action on the border in light of unprecedented volumes of border crossings.
Speaking to reporters, Cornyn shrugged off complaints about the states’ efforts to share the load, saying the Biden administration has been moving migrants into the interior of the United States for a year and a half without raising alarm bells.
And he rejected assertions from migrants’ lawyers that many of those flown to Martha’s Vineyard were misled. Cornyn said “That’s simply not true. They volunteered.”
DeSantis has insisted that migrants all signed waivers and were given maps of the island, though some were clearly surprised to find themselves deplaning on an island rather than, say, in Boston.
Cornyn said some migrants who don’t speak English might have been confused after their long journey.
As for whether the Justice Department should investigate, he said:
“They don’t need my permission to do it.”