Greg Abbott Remarks About South Africa Migrants 'Crossing Border' Prompts Widespread Derision

Texas governor Greg Abbott has been mocked and criticized for suggesting that immigrants have been detained for "crossing our border illegally" from South Africa.

Abbott's tweet was criticizing President Joe Biden's decision to restrict travelers entering the U.S and seven other countries from southern Africa in order to help prevent the spread of the new COVID-19 variant B.1.1.529, now named Omicron.

In doing so, Abbott appeared to link the steps to stop the Omicron coronavirus variant spreading internationally to the migrant crisis on the U.S.-Mexico border, which the governor frequently attacks the president over.

"Biden banned travel from South Africa because of the new Covid variant," Abbott tweeted.

"Immigrants have recently been apprehended crossing our border illegally from South Africa. Biden is doing nothing to stop immigrants from South Africa entering illegally. Pure politics and hypocrisy."

In a statement to Newsweek, Abbott's press secretary Renae Eze said the governor wasn't confusing the country of South Africa with the continent of South America, and that more than 50 immigrants from South Africa and other south African countries under the Biden travel ban have been apprehended by Customs and Border Protection this year, with 18 being apprehended in November alone.

Either way, the tweet was condemned by a number of social media users.

New York Democratic Senator James Skoufis tweeted: "Greg Abbott can see South Africa from his house! Stay in school, kids."

South African politician Ashor Sarupen said: "Apparently, as a consequence of continental drift and some seismic activity, South Africa now shares a border with the US.

"Either that, or Greg Abbott is just demonstrating his American level of geography skills."

Grant Stern, author and the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats, tweeted: "I propose sending Greg Abbott to the South African border right away. Raise your hand if you agree with me."

Majid Padellan, better known as the popular left-wing Twitter account Brooklyn Dad, added: "I don't know who needs to hear this, but South Africa doesn't share a border with the United States.

"Oh, I guess Greg Abbott needs to hear that."

Katie S. Phang, attorney and CNBC host, tweeted in response to Abbott: "If this isn't a parody account, you need to resign."

In her statement to Newsweek, Eze said: "President Biden's hypocritical handling of legal travel and border policies has shown the world that the United States is open—as long as you enter illegally. Coming from over 150 countries around the world, including countries covered under the Biden travel ban, President Biden's hands-off approach to our southern border has opened the floodgates to a 61-year record-high number of illegal immigrants surging into our state.

"Until President Biden stops the hypocrisy and does his job, Texas will continue stepping up to secure the border and protect Texans."

The World Health Organization has official listed Omicron as a "variant of concern" because it has several mutations which may impact on how it behaves, such how easily it spreads or the severity of illness those who are infected by it may be inflicted with.

However, the WHO said it is still unclear if Omicron is more transmissible or causes more severe disease than other COVID variants, and more studies are needed.

Update 11/30/2021 3:36 a.m. ET: This article was updated with comment from Greg Abbott's press secretary.

greg abbott south africa
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during the Houston Region Business Coalition's monthly meeting on October 27, 2021 in Houston, Texas. Brandon Bell/Getty Images