WESLACO, Texas (Border Report) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday asked for the support of a dozen state attorneys general in battling drug cartels and what he calls a lack of effective border security policies by the Biden administration.
The governor and the Republican attorneys general gathered in South Texas, where Abbott said despite agreeing to meet with the group, officials with the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and Customs and Border Protection agencies “canceled those briefings.”
“They were given the directive from somewhere high not to show up today,” Abbott said.
Border Report has asked DHS officials to clarify whether ICE and CBP officials canceled or rescheduled their meetings with the visiting attorneys general and will update this story if additional information is received.
Attorneys general from Alaska, Arkansas, Indiana, Kansas, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Utah and West Virginia held a roundtable discussion with Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton at the regional headquarters of the Department of Public Service in the Rio Grande Valley. Missing were the attorneys general from Florida and Missouri, whom Abbott said were “still traveling.”
Prior to their roundtable discussion, Abbott gave a 25-minute media briefing where he said: “Somebody has to hold the president accountable for his abandonment of the rule of law in this country and it is up to all the attorneys general.”
He told the group that in 2021, DPS troopers along with National Guard troops and Texas Game Wardens on the border seized “enough fentanyl to kill every man, woman and child in all the states gathered here combined. That is how deadly this is.”
He said law enforcement, through Operation Lone Star, has confiscated drugs “that could have killed 220 million Americans.”
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch told Abbott she was “grateful” for the invite — her first trip to the Texas-Mexico border — to learn more about the region. “So we can fight this good fight,” she said.
Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita said this was his third trip to the border.
“It’s important to be here first hand to see it,” Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge said.
Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes characterized “every state is a border state” and said in his home state “we are dealing with this just like everyone else seated at the table who has an influx in the opioid epidemic and human trafficking.”
Paxton, who is running for re-election in Texas, told Abbott: “Thank you for being here and fighting the fight. It’s not just for Texas but for the whole nation.”
Paxton boasted that Texas has sued the Biden administration seven times over border and immigration-related issues.
Abbott told the group that he had an “action item” and proposed for the attorneys general to consider joining in a lawsuit against TikTok. Abbott said Mexican cartels are advertising for human traffickers via social media apps like TikTok.
“The cartels in Mexico are using TikTok to advertise to recruit smugglers in Texas, San Antonio and Houston, to advertise for pay to smuggle people here into Texas.”
Paxton said more information on a potential lawsuit will be explained Friday when the group meets in Edinburg for another media briefing, which Border Report plans on covering.
DPS Director Steve McCraw said cartels have long recruited our children. “There are too many bodies they cannot move outside the border,” he said.
CBP earlier this week reported updated apprehensions and encounter numbers along the border that show more than 2 million unauthorized migrants came across the Mexican border in the 2021 calendar year and were apprehended or turned themselves in.
The majority cross through the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.
“We’re a criminal corridor and the cartels are exploiting us,” McCraw said.
Through Operation Lone Star, which began in March, DPS has made over 10,000 criminal arrests including 2,500 for criminal trespassing.
Migrant advocates last month asked the Department of Justice to launch an investigation into the Texas initiative.
On Wednesday afternoon, 50 Texas House Democrats sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging the Justice Department to investigate Operation Lone Star saying it is burdening local justice systems and creating hardships on Texas National Guard.
“Operation Lone Star uses state criminal law to target Black and Latino migrants for punishment,” the letter from the lawmakers said.
“This militarization of Texas’ border communities follows a rise in anti-immigrant hate that incited a shooter to target Latino residents of El Paso in 2019, murdering 23 people,” the letter read.
Abbott has visited the Rio Grande Valley several times in the past few months and the border appears to be a key issue in his re-election campaign. During a Dec. 18 visit, he touted the state-funded border wall that is being built in rural Starr County outside the tiny town of La Grulla.
On Thursday, Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick announced he had formed a new Senate Border Security Committee.
State Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, a Democrat from the Rio Grande Valley, so far is the only Democrat appointed to the committee.
Sandra Sanchez can be reached at email@example.com.