EXPLAINER: Why did Texas hold up trucks on border for days?

Apr 15, 2022, 11:30 AM | Updated: Apr 16, 2022, 7:15 am

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Gov. Greg Abbott’s decision to impose additional inspections of trucks entering Texas from Mexico was his latest move in an unprecedented foray into border security, which has long been the federal government’s domain.

The two-term governor, like many Republican Party leaders, calls illegal immigration and drug smuggling from Mexico a “crisis” and fully blames President Joe Biden. His latest actions follow the Biden administration’s decision to end pandemic-related restrictions on claiming asylum at the border on May 23.

Here are some facts about conditions on the border and Abbott’s response:

HOW MANY MIGRANTS ARE APPEARING AT THE BORDER?

U.S. Customs and Border Protection stopped migrants 164,973 times in February, a daily average of nearly 5,900. March figures will be released soon, but CBP said it stopped migrants an average of 7,101 times a day during the week that ended March 28.

That’s an unusually large number; The last week in March was on pace to establish a new monthly high in Biden’s presidency and one of the busiest ever. The Border Patrol stopped migrants nearly 1.7 million times in the 12-month period that ended Sept. 30 — among the highest since the agency was founded in 1924 — but that number masks a critical difference.

Since March 2020, U.S. authorities have expelled migrants more than 1.7 million times under Title 42 authority, named for a 1944 public health law, using the threat of COVID-19 to deny migrants a chance to seek asylum as required under U.S. law and international treaty. Expulsions carry no legal consequences, encouraging repeat attempts. In the 2021 budget year, more than one of four migrants at the border had been stopped “multiple times,” with repeat crossers stopped an average of more than three times in the previous year. Consequently, the number of migrants who crossed the border is much lower than the number of times authorities have stopped migrants.

WHAT HAS BIDEN DONE?

The Democratic president undid many measures introduced by his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who belittled asylum as a “scam” and said the country was “full.” The Biden administration reversed a rule that generally prohibited domestic and gang violence as grounds for asylum and ended bilateral agreements to send some migrants to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to seek protection there instead of in the United States.

Biden suspended the “Remain in Mexico” policy on his first day in office after the Trump administration forced about 70,000 asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico for hearings in U.S. immigration court. He was forced to reinstate the policy in December under court order but numbers have been modest. The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments April 26 on whether and how Biden can end the policy.

With COVID-19 infection rates dropping, the administration announced April 1 that it will end Title 42 authority on May 23. Some Democratic members of Congress joined Republican leaders to argue the move was premature and the administration unprepared. The Homeland Security Department says it is preparing for as many as 18,000 daily crossings.

On Thursday, 18 states joined Louisiana, Arizona and Missouri in a federal lawsuit to keep Title 42 authority in place. The additional states are: Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia and Wyoming. Texas is conspicuously absent.

WHAT IS TEXAS DOING?

Last year, Abbott launched a multibillion-dollar border security mission, deploying thousands of state troopers and National Guard members, installing new border barriers and jailing migrants on trespassing charges. Abbott, who is running for reelection in November, made it the cornerstone of his administration.

Texas, assuming a role like California’s during Trump’s presidency, has been a top legal adversary to changes in immigration policy. It joined Missouri in the case before the Supreme Court on ending “Remain in Mexico.”

After the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Title 42 authority was ending, Abbott began inspecting commercial vehicles in addition to CBP’s independent inspections, creating significant delays and backlash from his pro-business allies. He also chartered buses to Washington, D.C., for migrants who volunteered to take them.

On Friday, Abbott fully repealed the inspections after announcing agreements with neighboring Mexican governors about border security, but said he would not hesitate to reimpose them in the future. Migrants are stopped at ports of entry in only about 5% of CBP’s encounters. The vast majority cross in mountains, deserts and cities between official crossings.

The dynamic with drug seizures is different, with fentanyl, heroin, methamphetamine and other hard narcotics being seized overwhelmingly at official crossings instead of between them. Their compact size and lack of odor make them extremely difficult to detect.

IS ANY OF THIS NEW UNDER BIDEN?

No, there have been several spikes in migration since 2014, with a broken asylum system dogging three presidents. The United States became the world’s most popular destination for asylum-seekers in 2017.

Immigration experts refer to “push” factors that compel migrants to leave their homes and “pull” factors that refer to policies in destination countries that may influence decisions on where to go.

“Push” factors include hurricanes, violence, political repression and poverty, while “pull” factors include real or perceived changes in U.S. policy. One widely cited “pull” factor is a heavily backlogged U.S. asylum system; it takes an immigration judge four years on average to decide a claim for people who are not in custody.

Last month, the Biden administration unveiled a long-discussed and potentially significant change to expand authority of asylum officers to decide claims, not just initial screenings. It is designed to decide cases in months instead of years but officials say there are no additional funds for its launch, expected in late May, and to expect a slow start.

___

Spagat reported from San Diego.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

A Ukrainian serviceman changes his position at the frontline near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Saturday, Ju...
Associated Press

Governor: Russians gaining foothold in pivotal Ukraine city

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are strengthening their positions in a grueling fight to capture the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, the region’s governor said Sunday. Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city of Lysychansk, and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did […]
2 hours ago
Associated Press

North Texas shooter kills 2, wounds 3 cops, takes own life

HALTOM CITY, Texas (AP) — A gunman killed two people and wounded four others, including three police officers, before taking his own life Saturday evening in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, police said. Haltom City Police Det. Matt Spillane said early Sunday that all of those wounded in the shooting in a residential neighborhood had non-life […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Saturday, Oct. 1, 2011 file photo, Associated Press Special Regional Correspondent f...
Associated Press

Hope and despair: Kathy Gannon on 35 years in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Afghan policeman opened fire on us with his AK-47, emptying 26 bullets into the back of the car. Seven slammed into me, and at least as many into my colleague, Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus. She died at my side. Anja weighed heavy against my shoulder. I tried to look […]
1 day ago
FILE - In this Monday, Nov. 18, 2019 file photo, the logo of Google is displayed on a carpet at the...
Associated Press

Google to erase more location info as abortion bans expand

Google will automatically purge information about users who visit abortion clinics or other places that could trigger legal problems now that the U.S. Supreme Court has opened the door for states to ban the termination of pregnancies.
1 day ago
FILE - President Joe Biden, center, meets with South Korea's President Yoon Suk Yeol, left, and Jap...
Associated Press

North Korea slams US-South Korea-Japan military cooperation

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea on Sunday slammed the United States, South Korea and Japan for pushing to boost their trilateral military cooperation targeting the North, warning that the move is prompting urgent calls for the country to reinforce its military capability. North Korea has long cited what it calls hostility by the […]
1 day ago
FILE - Uvalde School Police Chief Pete Arredondo, second from left, stands during a news conference...
Associated Press

Uvalde schools’ police chief resigns from City Council

The Uvalde school district’s police chief has stepped down from his position in the City Council just weeks after being sworn in following allegations that he erred in his response to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary School that left 19 students and two teachers dead. Chief Pete Arredondo said in a letter dated Friday […]
1 day ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Dr. Richard Carmona

Great news: Children under 5 can now get COVID-19 vaccine

After more than two years of battle with an invisible killer, we can now vaccinate the youngest among us against COVID-19. This is great news.
...
Christina O’Haver

BE FAST to spot a stroke

Every 40 seconds—that’s how often someone has a stroke in the United States. It’s the fifth leading cause of death among Americans, with someone dying of a stroke every 3.5 minutes.
...
Carla Berg, MHS, Deputy Director, Public Health Services, Arizona Department of Health Services

ADHS mobile program brings COVID-19 vaccines and boosters to Arizonans

The Arizona Department of Health Services and partner agencies are providing even more widespread availability by making COVID-19 vaccines available in neighborhoods through trusted community partners.
EXPLAINER: Why did Texas hold up trucks on border for days?