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Texas continues busing migrants to sanctuary cities, intensifying spotlight on border crisis

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been roundly criticized by Democratic politicians for shipping more than 85,400 migrants to designated sanctuary cities since August 2022.

Published: December 31, 2023 11:39pm

(The Center Square) -

Republican Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has been roundly criticized by Democratic politicians for shipping more than 85,400 migrants to designated sanctuary cities since August 2022.

In August of this year, Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass said in a media release it was "evil" to bus migrants to Los Angeles while the city was preparing for Tropical Storm Hilary.

A month later, the White House labeled it a "cruel, inhumane political stunt."

But Brendan Steinhauser, who runs a political communications firm in Austin, Texas, said Abbott's busing of migrants has been an effective political strategy. Steinhauser said it shifted the conversation on the border crisis from the "very isolated places" of southern border towns to major U.S. cities.

Steinhauser served in the Texas State Guard and was involved in loading the very first buses of migrants that were sent to the sanctuary cities in August 2022.

"It's a real problem now, it is not just an intellectual argument," Steinhauser said. "It is on the streets, and that's the difference."

In November 2022, Abbott described the southern border crisis as "what amounts to an invasion."

The Center Square has reported that 47 counties in Texas have declared an invasion.

Under President Joe Biden, record numbers of foreign nationals have crossed the border illegally.

Steinhauser said Abbott has had enough of a humanitarian crisis in Texas communities.

"He said, 'We are going to bring those problems to you,'" Steinhauser said. "It's very interesting to see the reactions of the [sanctuary city] mayors. They are admitting to the fact that this is a crisis. It is changing the politics of those cities."

Abbott posted on social media the number of migrants bused to each of the sanctuary cities:

"Texas' border busing mission provides vital relief to our overwhelmed border communities," Abbott posted on X, formerly Twitter. "We have bused over 82,900 migrants to sanctuary cities."

The breakdown of the number of migrants sent to sanctuary cities, according to Abbott's office:

32,200 New York City24,500 Chicago12,500 Washington DC11,100 Denver3,400 Philadelphia1,250 Los Angeles

The national media started reporting on the migrant issues the sanctuary cities were dealing with this fall.

On Sept. 7, the New York Times ran an article with a headline, "Is Texas' Busing Responsible for the Migrant Crisis Across Cities?"

On Dec. 17, NBC News ran an article with a headline, "How Texas Gov. Greg Abbott divided Democrats on immigration with migrant busing."

On Dec. 29, the mayors of Chicago, New York and Denver appeared on CNN and talked about the impact of Abbott's busing policy.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams said his city has reached the breaking point.

"It's not just about New York City, it is all of these cities that are being impacted from Brownsville, El Paso, Houston, Chicago, New York, Denver," Adams said, according to a transcript provided by the city of New York. "This is really an issue that you're seeing play out on the streets of our cities."

Denver Mayor Mike Johnston called for more federal money to help cover the costs of the additional migrants.

"It will crush city budgets around the country," Johnston said.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson called Abbott's actions "inhumane and unconscionable."

"But I want to make this very clear: the international crisis that we are experiencing right now is being subsidized by local economies. That is not sustainable," the mayor of Chicago said.

Chicago has been the featured battle ground over Abbott's practice of busing migrants to sanctuary cities.

Chicago began impounding buses bringing migrants to the city. The city amended an ordinance Dec. 13 that gave it the power to impound and tow buses that didn't deliver migrants to designated drop off locations.

On Dec. 20, Abbott responded by stating on X that his state would fly migrants into Chicago.

"Sanctuary city Chicago started obstructing and targeting our busing mission. Texas will now expand our operation to include flights to Chicago," Abbott posted on X. "Until Biden steps up to secure the border, we will continue to provide overwhelmed Texas border towns with much-needed relief."

The migrant crisis has some Chicago politicians wondering if the city's residents still want to be a sanctuary city, which Chicago has been since 1985.

Anthony Beale, a Chicago alderman who ran for office as a Democrat, tried to get the City Council to put a non-binding referendum on a 2024 ballot for voters to say whether they want the city to remain a sanctuary city.

The Federation for American Immigration Reform reported that the referendum measure had 12 co-sponsors in November. There are 50 aldermen who make up the City Council.

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