Earlier today, Greg Abbott held an event with Donald Trump billed as a border security visit. Abbott’s stunt, a way to flex his conservative credentials ahead of a potential run for president, is also another reminder of how Abbot’s fear mongering about the border has taken a very sinister turn.
Abbott has also matched his inflammatory rhetoric with some increasingly authoritarian moves, like declaring the border a disaster and his announcing that Texas would construct a border wall with Mexico by borrowing $250 million from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. He also unveiled a crowdfunding website for people to donate to the wall.
Abbott’s focus on the border has not been echoed by the counties that actually comprise the Texas-Mexico border. Several of the largest counties on the border, including Hidalgo and Cameron County, opted out of partnering with state law enforcement in the border disaster declaration.
Yet, Abbott remains undeterred from pouring as many resources as possible into “border security.” He’s also getting help from several Republican governors like Ron DeSantis and Kristi Noem, who separately announced they would be sending state law enforcement from Florida and South Dakota respectively to assist in border enforcement.
The announcement from Noem was particularly alarming for many Texas lawmakers when it was also revealed that a Republican donor was footing the bill for sending 50 members of the South Dakota National Guard to Texas. The donor, Willis Johnson, is from Tennessee but he has been a prolific fundraiser for the Republican Party.
The South Dakota Democratic Party slammed Noem’s decision. “Kristi Noem has turned our military into mercenaries. It is morally wrong to deploy troops for political purposes using private funds,” they wrote on Twitter.
The state of affairs in Texas that Abbott has created all on his own is reaching absurd and distressing levels. It’s entirely possible the Abbott of now wouldn’t even recognize the Abbott of 2015 who fanned the flames of invading forces from other parts of the country in the infamous Jade Helm fiasco.
For those who need a refresher: Jade Helm refers to a long-planned military exercise in 2015 that was happening in Texas and several other states. Before the exercise occurred, conspiracy theories took hold in Bastrop, where the military was slated to start its training. There were rampant rumors of mass arrests of U.S. citizens. One meeting captured by The Austin American-Statesman shows one resident convinced martial law was imminent.
Abbott responded to the Jade Helm exercise by requesting members of the Texas State Guard “monitor” the situation. “It is important that Texans know their safety, constitutional rights, private property rights and civil liberties will not be infringed upon,” wrote Abbott at the time.
As areas near the border await the additional deployments from Republican states, many residents are frustrated by the increased presence from Texas forces that are already there. Texas Monthly chronicled the plight of residents in La Grulla, a small town in Starr County a few miles from the border. Traffic infractions have increased exponentially and nobody (not even the mayor or the police chief) has been spared.
Judge Eloy Vera also had a tough time trying to convince a company looking to relocate from Tennessee that the overbearing presence of DPS was just posturing from the governor. It took me over a week of trying to convince them this is one of the safest places in the country and to explain that this is just a political show of the governor,” Vera told Texas Monthly.
It’s unclear exactly what troops from Florida or South Dakota are even going to do in Texas. But it’s likely Texans can expect plenty of photo-ops from the governors who made it happen. And unfortunately for Abbott, as it stands now, both DeSantis and Noem have a better shot of being president than him.
Photo: Drew Anthony Smith/Getty Images