McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — After winning his third term in office on Tuesday night, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott reiterated his promise to ratchet back border security operations if Republicans take control of Congress and implement immigration reforms.
But during his victory speech in McAllen, he warned that if the federal government, including Republicans, does not act, then Texas will continue to guard its southern border with Mexico.
“Where, and if, Congress falls short, Texas must continue our unprecedented efforts to secure our border,” Abbott told a cheering crowd at Quinta Mazatlan in declaring victory against his Democratic challenger former U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke.
As of Wednesday afternoon, votes were still being counted for several congressional races, but Republicans had already picked up far more House seats than Democrats in Tuesday’s elections, by a ration of three to one. If the trend holds and the GOP gets to 218 members, they will control the chamber.
On Tuesday night, Abbott touted the election of Monica De La Cruz as the first woman and first Republican to beat out her Democratic challenger to win Texas’ 15th Congressional District, which has always been a Democratic-held seat. Abbott said her “first job” in Congress “will be to fire Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House.”
And Abbott laid out a litany of demands he expects lawmakers to enact if Texas is to draw back on Operation Lone Star — the $4 billion border security initiative he began in 2021.
This includes forcing asylum-seekers to wait in Mexico during their immigration proceedings and funding and building more border wall along the Texas-Mexico border.
“Texans have demanded a more secure border. The new Republican Congress they have promised to do their job to secure the border. We must hold them to their promise. They must reinstate the ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy and go back to building our border wall. They must reimburse the state of Texas for every penny we’ve spent doing the federal government’s job to secure the border,” Abbott said.
Over 60,000 asylum-seeking migrants were turned back to Mexico under the Trump administration’s Migrant Protection Protocols program, also known as the “Remain in Mexico” program. The Biden administration has fought against re-implementing it, and last summer the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the administration does not have to re-start this program.
As part of Operation Lone Star, Texas has funded and built nearly 2 miles of border wall in rural Starr County in South Texas, and is negotiating for dozens more miles of borderlands to build more barrier.
Over 10,000 Texas National Guard and Texas Department of Public Safety troopers have been surged to the borderlands as part of the operation.
During his campaign, O’Rourke argued that border security should be a federal issue. He rallied against the militarization of the border — something that is a talking point among Democrats who feel privacy and rights are infringed upon by so many border troops, as well as border barrier structures, and even border cameras set up throughout the border.
Most of O’Rourke’s messaging was geared toward reducing semi-automatic weapons and keeping weapons out of schools, citing the deaths of 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School in May in Uvalde, Texas. He also campaigned for women’s reproductive rights.
But he did not draw a hard line for border security, as Abbott did.
Abbott used immigration and border security as a sounding board during campaign stops and meetings he has held this past year throughout the state. He has repeatedly said that Texas is securing the border at a time when he believes the federal government is not.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported over 2.6 million migrant encounters along the Southwest border in Fiscal Year 2022. The most migrant encounters were in the Del Rio Sector, which includes the border city of Eagle Pass.
On Tuesday night, Abbott listed boosting the state’s economy as the No. 1 priority as he begins his third term in office. But he spent several minutes discussing border security and what he expects to be done going forward.
And he reiterated an executive order he issued in September declaring Mexican cartels as “terrorist organizations” and said fentanyl must stop crossing the border.
“We must escalate our battle against the deadly fentanyl that is pouring across our border. We must treat it like the crime that it is and that is murder,” he said.