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Border agency chief says Abbott 'not adequately' coordinating with feds, locals about migrant busing

 U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus speaks during an interview in his office with The Associated Press, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Washington.
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
/
The Associated Press
U.S. Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Chris Magnus speaks during an interview in his office with The Associated Press, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2022, in Washington.

Gov. Greg Abbott’s administration is transporting migrants from Texas to Washington D.C. without coordinating with federal or local officials, said the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Thursday.

The statement comes after two buses carrying migrants who crossed the border into Texas were sent to Washington this week as part of Abbott’s expansion of Operation Lone Star, a state border-security strategy launched last year.

“Governor Abbott is taking actions to move migrants without adequately coordinating with the federal government and local border communities. CBP has always worked closely with and supported border communities in Texas, many of which CBP personnel call home,” said CBP Commissioner Chris Magnus. “We all have a shared interest in maintaining safe, orderly, and humane immigration processes, and assistance from the state should be carefully coordinated with us.”

The statement did not include what, if anything, CBP can or would do in response, however.

Abbott’s orders for the Texas Division of Emergency Management were announced last week in response to the Biden administration’s plans to lift Title 42, a policy that immediately expels migrants, late next month. The policy was implemented at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic by the Trump administration. Abbott said rescinding it would lead to a possible “cataclysmic” event at the southern border.

Abbott’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment about CBP’s statement.

Magnus added that migrants are processed at the border according to current law.

“Individuals encountered at the border who are not subject to expulsion under Title 42 are placed into immigration enforcement proceedings according to law. As part of this process, some noncitizens are placed into expedited removal processes, while others may be issued a notice to appear at immigration proceedings and placed in Alternatives to Detention,” he said. “As individuals await the outcome of their immigration proceedings, they are legally obligated to report in for the next steps in their immigration process and permitted to travel elsewhere. CBP’s close partnerships with other government and non-governmental stakeholders are essential to this effort, and to ensuring fairness, order, and humanity in the process.”

At least two buses have been sent to Washington, D.C., as part of Abbott’s plan. The governor’s office told The Texas Newsroom that about 14 migrants were transported Thursday. They were from Venezuela, Nicaragua, Cuba and Colombia. That follows Wednesday’s busload of about 30 passengers.

Earlier Thursday, immigrant rights groups held a news conference to welcome the migrants, whom they called their new neighbors.

“We are eager to serve the asylum seekers that arrive from Texas and beyond,” said Gustavo Torres, the executive director of CASA, a mid-Atlantic based immigrant rights organization. “In our region, we are blessed with a forward-thinking government and a tight net of advocates, allies, and immigrant activists that lead with respect and dignity. Restoring asylum and expanding opportunities for immigrants to receive protection is what our country must do.”

The CBP statement comes two days after the agency said another one of Abbott’s new policies — increased inspections of commercial vehicles at the border — was stunting trade.

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at jaguilar@kera.org.You can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.

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