Texas Governor Greg Abbott said Sunday he is expanding his troops’ control of the southern US border to protect it from a migrant “invasion,” as President Joe Biden’s administration accuses him of overstepping his authority.
Abbott, flanked by 13 fellow Republican state governors, arrived at Shelby Park, in the Texan city of Eagle Pass, which has an access ramp to the Rio Grande river that forms the natural boundary between the United States and Mexico.
“We are here to send a loud and clear message, that we are banding together to fight to ensure that we will be able to maintain our constitutional guarantee, that states will be able to defend against any type of imminent danger or invasion,” Abbott told a news conference.
Eagle Pass, about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Quemado, has become the epicenter of a prickly conflict between Abbott and the Biden administration.
The federal government is suing Abbott for taking control of Shelby Park and for laying barbed wire along the riverbank.
The Biden administration complained in mid-January that Texas national guardsmen had prevented federal border police from reaching the river to try to rescue three migrants, who subsequently drowned.
Texas has rejected the accusation.
Biden has taken the case to the US Supreme Court, which has authorized border police to cut the barbed wire.
However, a defiant Abbott has ordered more fencing erected and has garnered support from Republican governors around the country who have sent their own guardsmen or other resources to the border.
“The Texas National Guard… (are) undertaking operations to expand this effort. We’re not going to contain ourselves just to this park,” he said.
“Now we are expanding to further areas to make sure that we will expand our level of deterrence and denial of illegal entry into the United States.”
Abbott, a staunch supporter of former president Donald Trump, who made the fight against immigration one of the main themes of his 2016 election campaigns, has openly questioned the authority of the Biden administration, accusing it of “deliberate inaction” in the face of a record influx of migrants at the border in recent months.
Biden campaigned in 2020 on restoring “humanity” to immigration, ending controversial Trump-era policies that led to families being separated at the US-Mexico border.
Abbott’s latest remarks came as a convoy of activists calling themselves “God’s army” arrived at the border in southern Texas to protest against what they call a migrant “invasion”.
He said neighborhoods, businesses and golf courses in Eagle Pass have been “invaded”, something which dozens of protesting residents dismissed Sunday while also rejecting the heavy military presence in the area.
On Sunday night, the US Senate unveiled the text of a deal between Democrats and Republicans that would unlock billions in new aid for Ukraine and Israel while tightening US border laws.
However, the prospect of it becoming law is uncertain.