The first bus carrying undocumented immigrants who crossed the border into Texas completed its trip to Washington D.C. on Wednesday as part of Gov. Greg Abbot's expanded border-security operation.
Abbott's office said in a statement the bus was carrying migrants from Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. The trip is a component of Abbott's expansion of Operation Lone Star, the state's border-security mission, which Abbott announced last week in response to the Biden Administration's plans to end a pandemic-era immigration rule put in place by the Trump administration in 2020.
“As the federal government continues to turn a blind eye to the border crisis, the State of Texas will remain steadfast in our efforts to fill in the gaps and keep Texans safe,” Abbott said in a news release. “By busing migrants to Washington, D.C., the Biden Administration will be able to more immediately meet the needs of the people they are allowing to cross our border."
The migrants were dropped off between Union Station and the United States Capitol, the news release said. A second bus was on the same route as of Wednesday morning.
It's unclear where in Texas the migrants were apprehended. Unauthorized crossings have increased over the last year in every Texas sector of the U.S. Border Patrol, with the Rio Grande Valley being the busiest.
Under Abbott's order, the Texas Division of Emergency Management is now tasked with transporting the migrants, and that office referred any questions about the operation to Abbott's office.
Abel Nuñez, the executive director of the Central American Resource Center, told The Texas Newsroom his organization has been in touch with other refugee resettlement groups to assess the arrival of the migrants.
He said the bus coming from Texas was carrying about 15 migrants, but that most of them said they were going to Florida to stay with family or friends.
In El Paso on Monday Abbott told border sheriffs to prepare for a possibly "cataclysmic" event once the pandemic-era rule, known as Title 42, ends in May. The policy quickly expels most undocumented immigrants back to Mexico without allowing the migrants a chance to be processed by border officials and apply for asylum in the United States.
Another facet of Abbott's expanded operation calls for the Texas Department of Public Safety to inspect commercial vehicles after they are allowed into the country by federal customs agents. That policy has led to a massive backlog at some of Texas' busiest ports. On Monday Mexican truckers blocked some ports of entry to protest the policy. Abbott is scheduled to meet Wednesday with the governor of the Mexican border state of Nuevo Leon, which borders Texas in Webb County.
Reporter Sergio Martínez-Beltrán contributed reporting