GOP governors back at Texas border to keep pressure on Joe Biden over migrant crossings

As more than a dozen Republican governors gathered Sunday on the Texas border, Kyle Willis was across the river in Mexico considering his next move to enter the U.S.

The 23-year-old Jamaican, who said he left his country after facing attacks and discrimination due to his sexuality, had followed the path of a historic number of migrants over the past two years and tried crossing the Rio Grande at the border city of Eagle Pass. But he waded back across the river after spending hours, in soaking clothes, failing to persuade Texas National Guard soldiers behind a razor wire fence to let him through.

“It’s not just something they’re saying to deter persons from coming in. It’s actually real,” said Willis, who for now is staying at a shelter in Piedras Negras.

His experience would be considered a victory for Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who returned to Eagle Pass on Sunday surrounded by GOP governors who have cheered on his extraordinary showdown with President Joe Biden’s administration over immigration enforcement. But declines in crossings are part of a complex mix of developments along the U.S. border, including heightened enforcement in Mexico. Meanwhile, migrants are moving further down the river and crossing elsewhere.

The issue was also at the forefront in Washington, where senators on Sunday raced to release a highly-anticipated bill that pairs border enforcement policy with wartime aid for Ukraine.

Abbott said he would continue expanding operations along the Texas border but did not provide details. For nearly a month, Texas has restricted U.S. Border Patrol’s access to an area along the river known as Shelby Park, accusing the Biden administration of not being tough enough on crossings.

“We are here to send a loud and clear message that we are banding together to fight to ensure that we will be able to maintain our constitutional guarantee that states will be able to defend against any type of imminent danger,” Abbott said.

The record number of border crossings is a political liability for President Biden and an issue that Republicans are eager to put front and center to voters in an election year. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis last week committed to send more National Guard troops to Texas and other governors are also weighing new deployments.

Although DeSantis wasn’t present Sunday in Eagle Pass, Abbott was joined by Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders of Arkanas and Gov. Bill Lee of Tennessee, among other Republicans.

Eagle Pass is where Texas has been locked in a power struggle with the Biden administration for the past month after the state began denying access to U.S. Border Patrol agents at Shelby Park.

Crossings in recent weeks are down overall along the entire U.S. border, including areas without such a heavy security presence.

Tucson, Arizona, which has been the busiest of nine Border Patrol sectors on the Mexican border, tallied 13,800 arrests in the weeklong period that ended Friday. That is down 29% from a peak of 19,400 in week ended Dec. 22, according to John Modlin, the sector chief.

Republished with permission from The Associated Press.

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