EL PASO, Texas (Border Report) – Texas Gov. Greg Abbott says illegal immigration will overwhelm border communities come May 23, when the federal government plans to stop expelling migrants under an oft-used public health order.

“Where we are today is nothing compared to what we are going to be seeing in about a month. What we’re going to be seeing based upon the prognostications of the Biden administration itself is going to be cataclysmic,” the governor told a Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition meeting in El Paso.

He urged local authorities in counties from El Paso to Brownsville to prepare for up to 18,000 unauthorized migrants coming across the border and to utilize state resources. He spoke about the continuation of Operation Lone Star and his plan to bus to Washington, D.C., migrants released by the federal government on the streets of border communities.

“The time to prepare is now. If you wait until May, it may be too late. If you wait until May 23 it’s going to be too late because you’re going to be completely overwhelmed,” Abbott said.

Title 42 is a federal mandate that has allowed border agents to expel 1.7 million newly arrived migrants to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The Biden administration says the order is ending on May 23.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

The Republican governor’s comments got mixed reviews, particularly in a Democratic-leaning host city that has often resented immigrants being portrayed as a public safety threat.

“You have to ask people what you need, and he never does. He always tells us what we need: ‘This is what you need, Texas.’ That’s not what we want,” said El Paso County Judge Ricardo Samaniego. “We want him to work with the plan that we’ve been working off for three and a half years. Three-hundred thousand migrants have come through here and we know how to handle it.”

But the sheriff of a county just east of El Paso had a different take.

“We expect May 23 to get worse than it already is. We are already over capacity at our jails; We’re already overwhelmed personnel-wise. The numbers are up and they haven’t slowed down,” said Culberson County Sheriff Oscar Carrillo. “We had a terrible 2021 and expect it to be worse” this year.

Abbott explains plan to bus migrants to D.C.

Abbott told the Texas Border Sheriffs Coalition he’s proud of an existing collaboration between the state government and their offices and urged them to continue standing up for property owners dealing with the aftereffects of illegal immigration.

“Property owners are suffering in El Paso the same way they are in Eagle Pass, the same way they are in Uvalde and in other places up and down the border,” he said. “In most of the border regions property owners, ranchers, farmers, people whose property is on the border itself, they’re going through catastrophic challenges they’ve never dealt with before.”

That includes traffic on their land from people who just crossed the border and who no one really knows who they are. He said that’s where the state’s Operation Lone Star comes in handy.

“I made Operation Lone Star to support you, to assist you with these challenges,” he said. “The first year was even busier than we anticipated,” he said. “We made 11,000 arrests including cartel and (gang) members, sex offenders […] that somehow evaded Border Patrol coming across the border. These are people that without Operation Lone Star would have been able to permeate across Texas and maybe across the United States and who knows the havoc they could have recked on communities.”

The Texas governor touched only briefly on his controversial plan to have migrants released by the Border Patrol bused to the nation’s capital. One of the issues is that the migrants are released with federal documents that specify where they can travel.

He told the sheriffs the plan came about because migrants are being released in Uvalde and other small Texas communities that had no infrastructure to assist them. Some of those communities are already using buses to transport migrants to San Antonio, he said.

“The fact of the matter is we shouldn’t be reshuffling the deck of the people who are being brought here, especially knowing the extraordinary volume of people that are going to be coming across the border,” Abbott said. “To be prepared for that, we want to make sure we have available to all border officials the ability to transport people away from their communities where you are incapable to respond to the high demand for services and support as well as to assist you in regard to public safety in your communities.”

Abbott said the buses will be available to counties “within an hour” to ensure the migrants dropped off by Border Patrol are taken to a location that is better prepared to handle them. He said the buses are already available from the Texas Division of Emergency Management.

The governor also restated his commitment to block with boats navigable portions of the Rio Grande where smugglers typically bring across large groups of migrants.

“Each county will have its own unique challenges. Each sheriff will have his own challenges. Texas has the flexibility and the capability to make sure that we can assist you in responding to whatever challenge you have,” he said.