House Democrats from Texas went after Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Sunday over a standoff at the U.S.-Mexico border between state and federal law enforcement, accusing him of inciting potential violence and making border safety a purely political issue.
Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) described Abbott’s border security program as a “disaster” and part of the “most virulent anti-immigrant sentiment in a generation.”
The governor appeared to ignore a Supreme Court order last month that allowed federal Border Patrol to remove barriers erected by state law enforcement. Abbott shrugged off the order, claiming that state law “supersedes” federal.
Dozens of GOP governors have backed Abbott in the fight, with some pledging material assistance, including National Guard troops.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) warned that circumstances could devolve into a shootout between state and federal troops if the conflict continues.
“You are setting up a potential conflict between [Texas National Guard] and Border Patrol, who are federal,” she said. “And because of the standoff at Eagle Pass, I am concerned that it may trigger some form of violence.”
Hundreds of people have also driven to the border, specifically Eagle Pass, Texas, to protest the federal government, with some Democrats warning it could turn violent. A convoy of about 200 vehicles arrived in Eagle Pass on Saturday.
Castro said the protesters were “quite frightening” for Eagle Pass residents and at times “confrontational.”
“Gov. Abbott understands by now that when he calls this an ‘invasion,’ that he’s putting a target on people’s backs,” Castro said. “And it’s not just migrants and asylum-seekers. It’s also Latinos in Texas.”
Castro compared potential future violence to the mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso in 2019. That shooting was racially motivated, with the gunman specifically targeting Latino people that he described as “Hispanic invaders.”
The Democrats called on Abbott to follow the Supreme Court order enforcing federal supremacy over the border and to work toward legislative solutions to border security.
Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-Texas) said Abbott’s show of force in Eagle Pass turned the town into a “movie set.”
“Does the state play a role in homeland security? Absolutely, they do, but they need to cooperate,” he said. “They need to work with us and not do this lone ranger and exclude the Border Patrol, which are authorized under federal law to enforce immigration law.”
Cuellar also called out House Republicans for rejecting a Senate border security bill that has not yet been released. Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) said that any Senate deal would be “dead on arrival” in the House.
Meanwhile, the House moved forward with an impeachment hearing for Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, which Democrats have denounced as political theater.
“They don’t want to secure the border,” Cuellar said. “They don’t want to look at the Senate bill. They don’t even want to read it. But they want to impeach the secretary for ‘not doing their job,’ while at the same time, our Republican friends are not doing their jobs.”
Reps. Vicente Gonzalez, Sylvia Garcia, Greg Casar and Jasmine Crockett, all Texas Democrats, were also present for the press conference Sunday.