Records: Texans spent $20 million busing migrants

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The cost to the Texans was around $12 million in August. Critics say the plan further encourages immigration by offering free bus travel.

DALLAS — New records obtained by the WFAA through an open records request show Gov. Greg Abbott’s plan to ferry migrants out of state cost Texans more than $20 million in October.

Abbott launched the program in April, sending migrant asylum seekers to New York, Chicago and Washington DC.

In a Friday press release, Abbott’s office said the buses carried 8,300 migrants to DC, more than 3,500 to New York and more than 1,100 migrants to Chicago. Average costs are about $1,600 per person.

“It was all just a political campaign, propaganda, a stunt by Governor Abbott,” said Domingo Garcia, president of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

Garcia was in DC when one of the buses from Texas arrived.

“They dropped them off at six in the morning, no food, no water, no instructions, literally just dumped outside the vice president’s house on the sidewalk,” he said.

In August, the Texas Department of Emergency Management announced that the buses had cost Texas $12 million. New TDEM records show the cost nearly doubled to $20.14 million in October.

Texas Democrats tried to focus on the Uvalde mass shooting where 19 teachers and two students were killed, the deadly winter freeze and abortion rights, but Abbott tried to stay focused on immigration.

“Instead of going for schools, scholarships, things that will make life better for Texans, here is the governor of Texas spending $20 million on a political stunt, using immigrants as political piñatas,” Garcia said.

Abbott told Inside Texas Politics that the bus saves money by reducing the cost of other social programs.

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“You would have to look into every sub-component, whether it’s health, education, social care, all the different kinds of sub-sectors,” he said. “That’s why there’s no one place you can go to find that number.”

But McAllen Mayor Javier Villalobos told Inside Texas Politics they weren’t paying anything.

“We have absolutely $0 for this,” he said. “We don’t deal with it. It is a federal issue.

In the only gubernatorial debate, Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke criticized Abbott for not looking for real solutions.

“We succeeded in making El Paso one of the safest cities in the United States of America. It’s because we were looking for solutions instead of these stunts,” O’Rourke said. “I just want to remind everyone, this guy has been governor for 8 years and that’s where we are today.”

Abbott’s office did not respond to an emailed question asking whether he would cap buses at any dollar amount, but in a statement he said, “Until the President Biden does his job and secures the border, Texas will continue to transport migrants to self-declared sanctuary cities.”

Garcia said the immigration crisis needed a diplomatic solution and called the buses a waste of money.

“I don’t think Governor Abbott’s campaign did anything significant other than help immigrants get to their destination anyway,” he said. “Basically, Governor Abbott is almost encouraging them to come.”

In two days, voters will decide how important sea immigration is to the problems facing the state and whether O’Rourke or Abbott would be better placed to tackle them.

“If you see these ads like ‘build the wall, deport ’em all,’ it plays fear and unfortunately fear gets votes,” Garcia said.

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