WESLACO, Texas (Nexstar) — On Wednesday, former Pres. Donald Trump joined Gov. Greg Abbott in the Rio Grande Valley to explore security issues at the Texas-Mexico border — most of which they laid squarely at the feet of President Joe Biden and his administration. Meanwhile, local Democrats are calling for Texas leaders to focus on other priorities.
“Mr. President, things have changed so quickly and so dramatically under the Biden administration. It’s been amazing and disastrous,” Abbott began on Wednesday.
In recent months, Abbott repeatedly blamed the Biden administration for the border situation, claiming President Joe Biden’s “reckless” border policies have allowed migrants to pour into Texas.
In response to the influx in illegal migrant crossings, Abbott launched ‘Operation Lone Star’ back in March, which surged thousands of extra law enforcement officers to the border.
Additionally, Abbott said the “deadliest” aspect of the surge is the importation of illegal fentanyl.
“Just the Texas Department of Public Safety alone has apprehended more fentanyl, to kill every man, woman and child in the entire state of Texas, this is deadly, it’s dangerous,” Abbott said.
Earlier this month, Abbott announced his operation will allow the state to continue building its own wall along our southern border.
Echoing Abbott’s sentiments, Trump said: “The border has never been this way. We went from the best border we’ve ever had in the history of our country… it’s the best by far.”
While the event was not open to the public, a small crowd of Trump supporters gathered outside the regional DPS headquarters in Weslaco where the roundtable was taking place.
“People here on the border that are residents and have been for many, many years, have that real concern of keeping our country not only Texas, but keeping the country safe,” Harlingen resident Victoria Torres explained that’s why she was there to support Trump.
Trump, who also alluded to still unproven claims of widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election, further pointed the finger at Democrats in reference to the border.
The former president said Democrats are attempting to blame the GOP as it “defunds police.” Although he didn’t elaborate how they relate to the Texas-Mexico border, Trump also name-checked U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar.
While Abbott has said his plans aim to address violence and crime at the border, political experts think the event Wednesday is partially a photo-op.
“I do think that we’re getting a little bit of that political theater, not only in the way that the governor is addressing immigration, using the state-funded efforts on a border wall as part of his efforts towards re-election, and certainly the White House is aware of what immigration means in terms of democratic policies,” Dr. Richard Pineda with the University of Texas at El Paso explained.
Last Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris made a trip to the border in El Paso but was criticized for not coming to the Rio Grande Valley. Abbott also took issue on Wednesday, saying: “She is misleading America. Because the fact of the matter is there are people coming into the United States from across our border than more than 150 countries across the entire globe. If she solves the problems in those three countries — which we know she can’t — that means there are still 147 other countries to go to solve problems there. They’re missing the point.”
The southern-most sector has recently had more illegal crossings than any other along the border.
Trump and Abbott toured an unfinished section of the border wall on Wednesday afternoon — a wall Trump said earlier in the day was completely secure during his time as president.
Texas Democrats react
During Wednesday’s events at the border, Democrats held a press conference in Austin, criticizing the governor’s briefing and explaining he should be focused on other issues instead, like the state’s power grid.
Texas Rep. Celia Israel, D-Austin, called Abbott’s border events “pandering.”
“The governor who has called us back for a special session, and not told us what we’re coming back for, is going to the border with a disgraced ex-president, to highlight the fact that for me, we continue to spend our state resources on a make believe crisis,” Rep. Israel said.
The special legislative session that begins on July 8, and the Governor has not yet released a list of priorities.
Texas Rep. John Bucy III, D-Williamson County, threw out electric grid reforms as well as expanding Medicaid and voting access as potential ideas to consider in the special session.
Abbott did not lay out any specific legislation or plans for addressing the border, although he did call for other states to help by sending resources to Texas in addition to saying the state would have more feet on the ground going forward.
Perspective from the border
Dimmit County landowner Emily King said she’s noticed the difference since Operation Lone Star launched earlier this year.
“The amount of vehicle bailouts that we’ve seen up and down our driveway and the highway that runs right in front of us is crazy. So March, April, there were a ton of them. And now we have a lot more state troopers, I think there’s maybe one every mile on the highway that is in front of us,” King said.
Landowners like King are hoping the governor will announce more help is on the way, beyond just building the wall.
“More people on the ground, more overhead resources, like helicopters, I would just say like more technology for our law enforcement agents to use,” King said, explaining she’s also concerned about burnout among local law enforcement officials in the coming months.