McALLEN, Texas (Border Report) — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Thursday criticized the Biden administration for providing baby formula to migrant children in holding facilities amid a nationwide shortage.

The comments came as President Joe Biden spoke with CEOs from baby formula companies on Thursday to hasten to get more baby formula supplies on shelves nationwide and limit restrictions, senior administration officials said.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott launched Operation Lone Star in March 2021. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

In a joint statement by Abbott and Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd on Thursday said: “Children are our most vulnerable, precious Texans and deserve to be put first. Yet, President Biden has turned a blind eye to parents across America who are facing the nightmare of a nationwide baby formula shortage. While mothers and fathers stare at empty grocery store shelves in a panic, the Biden Administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border. This is yet another one in a long line of reckless, out-of-touch priorities from the Biden Administration when it comes to securing our border and protecting Americans. Our children deserve a president who puts their needs and survival first – not one who gives critical supplies to illegal immigrants before the very people he took an oath to serve.”

While mothers and fathers stare at empty grocery store shelves in panic, the Biden Administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Border Patrol Council President Brandon Judd

Abbott has been outspoken against allowing migrants to cross from Mexico into Texas and has even spent billions of state funds and resources as part of Operation Lone Star to “secure the border,” which he has repeatedly said the Biden administration has “failed to do.”

Migrant advocates reacted angrily Thursday to Abbott’s statement.

“Children need nutrition,” Joshua Rubin, of the organization Witness At the Border, told Border Report. “You make a 1,500-mile journey with babes in arms. They’re going to need to be fed and any decent human being looks for a way to feed them, not for a way to deprive them.”

Joshua Rubin of Witness At The Border protests in Brownsville, Texas, on Jan. 17, 2020, for migrants to be released from Matamoros, Mexico, into South Texas. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

“Gov. Abbott has a political agenda that’s willing to punish children instead of here, in the richest nation on earth, figuring out a way to make sure all of God’s children have enough formula,” Rubin said.

“It’s so unfortunate that our governor is so short-sighted in his thinking. And is instead interested in stoking, xenophobia, racism and fear in an environment where we can be acting out of abundance, versus a scarcity mentality,” said Marisa Limón Garza, senior director for advocacy and programming for Hope Border Institute in El Paso, Texas.

“These children, all children, deserve access to a full life including food, shelter and love. If we collaborated and thought creatively about expanding our resources verses focusing on political theatre, we just might be able to feed every child regardless of status,” Garza told Border Report.

“It’s unbelievable. This is precisely when you believe you already touched bottom in terms of anti-immigrant and anti-humanity statements and policies fermented by the governor, then you see this. How he’s using children — babies — as part of his distorted political platform,” Fernando Garcia, founder and executive of the Border Network for Human Rights, a border rights coalition based in El Paso.

“He’s not only demonizing immigrants in Texas by calling them criminals and rapists but now to this extent that he is using immigrant children and babies as part of his political gain. That is shameful,” said Garcia, whose group was in McAllen on Thursday after a two-week tour of the Texas border that started in El Paso, to call for better migrant rights.

Migrant mothers on March 17, 2021, receive free baby formula at the Humanitarian Respite Center in McAllen, Texas, run by Catholic Charities of the Rio Grande Valley. The facility offers food, clothes, a place to rest and help with travel plans for migrants who are released by the Department of Homeland Security. (Sandra Sanchez/Border Report File Photo)

In a call with media on Thursday afternoon, White House senior administration officials explained the baby formula shortage began on Feb. 17 when the nation’s largest infant formula manufacturer in the country, Abbott Nutrition, initiated a voluntary recall of several lines of formula after concerns of possible bacterial contamination at its manufacturing facility in Sturgis, Michigan.

Four infants became ill and two died in late 2021 and early 2022 prior to the voluntary recall.

On Thursday, “President Joe Biden spoke with retailers and manufacturers, including the CEOs of Walmart, Target, Mead Johnson and Gerber to talk to them about the work they are doing and call on them to do all they can to help families purchase and access infant formula,” a senior administration official said.

They discussed how to faster stock shelves and other companies taking up the slack of inventory in Abbott Nutrition’s absence.

They also discussed “additional steps to get more infant formula onto store shelves as quickly as possible without compromising safety,” a senior administration official said.

This includes the following:

  • Increasing imports of baby formula.
  • Calling on the FTC and state attorneys general “to crack down on price gouging and unfair market practices related to the sales of infant formula,” officials said.
  • Cutting red tape and restrictions to get more infant formula to store shelves by urging states to provide flexibility in the WIC program.

WIC programs typically authorize the purchase of 12-ounce formula containers, but the administration wants to cut out that requirement to allow WIC families to buy 32-ounce containers and that would allow manufacturers to produce more product in larger batches quicker, senior administration officials said.

“This administration is working around the clock to do everything we can to bring as much production to market while protecting the safety and wellbeing of families,” a senior administration official said.