Texas Gov. Abbott formally appeals FEMA’s denial of state emergency declaration over migrant influx

Texas Politics

EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has appealed the denial of an emergency disaster declaration stemming from an influx of migrants on the state’s border with Mexico.

Abbott on Thursday sent a letter to President Joe Biden formally appealing the denial by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

“I have determined that the disaster caused by the overwhelming surge of individuals unlawfully crossing the Texas-Mexico border is of such severity that supplementary federal assistance is necessary to lessen the threat of disaster; save lives; and protect property, public health, and safety,” Abbott wrote.

Abbott initially asked President Joe Biden for an emergency declaration on Sept. 20, saying that “the federal government failed to enforce immigration laws, and in particular, failed to halt illegal crossings on federal property.”

Abbott cited the recent surge of more than 16,000 migrants at the Del Rio International Bridge as “just one of the most recent examples of the federal government’s failure to act.”

Abbott argues that the Department of Homeland Security’s strategy to address the migrant crisis has not alleviated the need for federal assistance.

“Texas first responders are fatigued, and resources are thin,” Abbott said.

A line of Texas Department of Safety vehicles lines the bank of the Rio Grande near an encampment of migrants, many from Haiti, Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Abbott said federal officials have acknowledged that had it not been for Texas Department of Public Safety, the Texas National Guard, and local stakeholders, the order in Del Rio would not have been maintained.

“Personnel provided by the State of Texas and local jurisdictions to rectify the situation outnumber the federal deployment three to one, and without our assistance the crisis would have quickly overwhelmed dismal federal assistance,” wrote Abbott, who included a photo of dozens of DPS vehicles lining the bank of the Rio Grande near the migrant encampment last month in Del Rio. “Given this, it is grossly inaccurate to suggest, as did (FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell) in the denial letter, that order was restored as a result of DHS’s strategy or to equate the slow, muted federal response to that of local and state agencies that responded quickly and in force to the incident.

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Abbott also outlined several actions he’s taken to address the situation at the border in the wake of what he calls the “federal government’s inaction”:

  • Signing laws that provide $3 billion in funding for Texas’ border security efforts
  • Launching Operation Lone Star and deploying thousands of National Guard soldiers and Department of Public Safety troopers
  • Creating a system to arrest and jail illegal migrants trespassing or committing other state crimes in Texas
  • Signing a budget authorization to build the border wall in Texas
  • Signing a law to make it easier to prosecute smugglers bringing people into Texas
  • Signing 9 laws cracking down on human trafficking in Texas
  • Signing a law enhancing penalties for the manufacturing and distribution of fentanyl
  • Issuing a disaster declaration for the border crisis
  • Issuing an executive order preventing non-governmental entities from transporting illegal immigrants
  • Taking legal action to enforce the Remain in Mexico and Title 42 policies in Texas

“Texas will stand with the federal government in responding to this border crisis, but should not have to stand alone or withstand the financial burden without federal assistance,” Abbott wrote in his letter to Biden. “This crisis has taken a serious toll on the Texas border communities, first responders, and the local non-profit sector. Local officials and Texas citizens are fatigued and running out of resources to respond to the ongoing border crisis. The citizens of Texas are resilient and will continue to respond, recover, and mitigate against this crisis, but in order to expedite this process, federal assistance is needed for these vulnerable populations.”

On Wednesday, Abbott visited the border town of Mission, Texas, where he was joined by nine other Republican governors to discuss the “border crisis.”

Speaking from Anzalduas Park, which is right on the banks of the Rio Grande, Abbott said: “President Joe Biden has caused a humanitarian crisis and chaos on our border. All Americans saw exactly what happened in Del Rio, Texas, last month and we know that chaos will be repeated unless and until President Biden takes action.”

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