Border

‘Dangerous lies.’ Texas Democrats blast ‘invasion’ rhetoric as border stalemate continues

As a convoy travels throughout Texas to protest President Biden’s immigration policies, Texas Democrats joined human rights experts and advocates on Thursday to push back on harsh border rhetoric.

A Texas Department of Public Safety officer guards an entrance to Shelby Park, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.
Sam Owens /The San Antonio Express-News Via AP
A Texas Department of Public Safety officer guards an entrance to Shelby Park, Thursday, Jan. 11, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Texas Democrats again slammed state officials on Thursday for using hate speech to describe the situation on the border and called for more voices to condemn the rhetoric before it leads to violence.

U.S. Reps. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio; Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso; and Greg Casar, D-Austin, joined human rights experts and other advocates to push back on the language as a convoy of self-proclaimed "patriots" and border hawks travel throughout the state to protest President Biden's immigration policies.

"For years, but especially over the past year, Republican elected officials have been spewing dangerous lies about an invasion at our southern border to distract from their failures to govern," Castro said.

But the targets of their ire – Texas Republicans – aren't likely to listen, as they continue to drum up support for Texas' Operation Lone Star and Gov. Greg Abbott's insistence on state control over a section of the border in Eagle Pass.

On Abbott's orders, Texas National Guard troops last month took over a park in Eagle Pass that had been a popular crossing area for unauthorized migrants who entered Texas to turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents. The guard has since denied Border Patrol access to the park after Abbott said that federal policy of processing, then releasing some migrants, only exacerbates the problem.

The "Take Back Our Border" convoy, which was largely organized online and reportedly includes far-right members who have hinted that a physical confrontation is possible, made stops in Central Texas Wednesday and is scheduled to continue to South Texas Thursday and Friday. Convoy organizers have billed the effort as a peaceful protest and there haven't been reports of violence so far.

But Escobar said the rhetoric surrounding the showdown on the border mimics language used by a white supremacist who murdered 23 people at an El Paso Walmart in 2019. The gunman traveled from North Texas to the border specifically to stop an "invasion" of Texas by Hispanics.

"He drove over 10 hours to come to my peaceful, loving community of goodwill so that he could slaughter people in El Paso. And he did. He was successful," she said. "He took 23 innocent souls. He injured dozens more. And my community continues to live with the pain and the trauma and the heartbreak of that day."

Escobar specifically called out Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, who earlier this week embraced the notion that immigrants are invading Texas.

"This is an invasion from third-world countries, they're coming in here with health issues, they're uneducated, unemployed and all they do is commit crime on the streets, most of them, many of them," he told FOX News.

Patrick also joined Abbott in asserting that Texas has a right to deny federal agents access to some parts of the river and take matters into its own hands.

"We believe we are following the Constitution," he said. "We have a right to defend American citizens and Texas citizens," he said.

That follows a statement from Abbott where he declared that Texas was on solid legal footing to take control.

"That authority is the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary. The Texas National Guard, the Texas Department of Public Safety, and other Texas personnel are acting on that authority, as well as state law, to secure the Texas border," Abbott said last week.

It doesn't appear that Abbott will take the criticism to heart. While the Democrats were criticizing his tactics, the governor announced that he will be joined by 14 Republican governors this weekend in Eagle Pass.

Copyright 2024 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.