Greg Abbott Is Winning the Border Battle

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has spent the last 10 months bussing migrants who arrive in his state to predominantly Democratic-run cities in an effort to challenge their own resources and amplify the issue of an unprecedented number of undocumented immigrants to the White House.

Democrats across the nation denounced Abbott, declaring the move a political stunt at the expense of the migrants, and accused the Republican governor of breaking human trafficking laws. But the decision to relocate tens of thousands of asylum seekers has put a national spotlight on President Joe Biden's immigration policies, and with their social safety nets pushed to the brink, Democratic mayors have been forced to make the issue a regular talking point.

During a visit to El Paso, Texas, this month, New York City Mayor Eric Adams declared that the surge of people arriving at the southern border has created a "national crisis" and urged the Biden administration to take preventive measures to drastically bring down the nation's immigration numbers.

"We are at our breaking point," Adams said in a January 13 statement. "The absence of sorely needed federal immigration reform should not mean that this humanitarian crisis falls only on the shoulders of cities. We need support and aid from our federal and state partners and look forward to working together to meet this crisis head-on."

Greg Abbott Migrants Border
Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks at a news conference on October 17, 2022, in Beaumont. In inset, immigrants seeking asylum turn themselves in to U.S. Border Patrol agents after wading across the Rio Grande to El Paso, Texas, from Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, on December 18, 2022. Brandon Bell/John Moore/Getty Images

Pressure Mounts on Democrats

Republican strategist Matt Klink said the Democrat-on-Democrat criticism not only brings attention to "a failed immigration system that is the responsibility of the federal government," but also highlights the current reality of border security.

"The pressure to fix the border problem now comes from an increasing number of prominent Democrats, including the Mayor of New York," political strategist Jay Townsend told Newsweek. "Border security has to be part of that discussion, even if some Democrats don't want to talk about it."

Since April of last year, Abbott's administration has spent tens of millions of dollars to charter more than 16,900 migrants up North.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser's office has spent more than $8 million in the last four months to address the influx of migrants being transported to the nation's capital, while Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has asked the state of Illinois for $50 million to care for migrants arriving in her city.

Adams has estimated that the 43,000 asylum seekers that the city has taken since the spring have cost the city as much as $2 billion. It's not only the costs that are catching up to Adams, who said he is running out of places to house incoming migrants.

Over the last three days, migrants in New York City have been in a standoff with Adams' administration as the city tries to move single men from the Watson Hotel in Manhattan to the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal. Although the city has said that the hotel is being repurposed for families with children, migrants living there have refused to budge in protest of the facilities at the terminal.

Klink told Newsweek that while self-proclaimed sanctuary cities like New York City and Chicago have long proclaimed their support for migrants, "faced with a mere fraction of the migration crisis that Texas faces on a daily basis, these cities buckle under the pressure and cry out for federal government help."

Abbott's decision to send migrants to cities unaccustomed to handling these numbers of people has put emphasis on how demanding the influx of migrants has been on Southern states and, in turn, led the public to question what's being done to address the issue.

Polls show there is a growing concern among Americans over the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border. A new Gallup survey found that 11 percent said immigration is the top issue facing the U.S.—a 3 percent bump over November and December.

Southern Border Apprehensions at All-Time High
Southern Border Apprehensions at All-Time High Statista

This chart, provided by Statista, shows the number of apprehensions of undocumented immigrants from 1999 to 2022.

Biden regularly polls poorly on the issue of immigration, and the poll, which was released Monday, found that Americans have found a new major problem—poor government leadership. Twenty-one percent of likely voters ranked it as the number one issue, compared to the 15 percent who said the same about a month ago.

"[Immigration] is a real problem for the administration, and one of their own making," GOP consultant Alex Patton told Newsweek.

'Talk About Anything Else'

For many, inaction from the White House, and specifically from Vice President Kamala Harris, whom Biden appointed as his border czar, has been perceived as a sit-and-wait approach. Rather than finding a solution to the problem Abbott has highlighted, Patton said it appears that the administration's strategy is to "ignore and downplay the issue, blame cable news hysteria, talk about anything else, and, I guess, hope the issue just goes away."

Seemingly unresponsive to the mounting criticism that is coming from both sides of the aisle, Patton said Biden's failure to address immigration runs the risk that his administration will look "at best, tone deaf, and at worst, incompetent to the cries for help coming from the border."

While resources in cities like New York City are becoming strained, Abbott's office told Newsweek that he has no plans to halt the busing of migrants to so-called sanctuary cities "until President Biden does his job and secures the border."

"Governor Abbott launched the border bus mission last April to provide support to our overrun and overwhelmed border communities as the Biden Administration dumps thousands of migrants in their towns," Abbott's press secretary Andrew Mahaleris said in a statement, adding that the relocation has provided "much-needed relief to our border towns."

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.