Gov. Greg Abbott speaks at a border security press conference in Weslaco on April 6, 2022. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)

The Texas Department of Public Safety will immediately begin “enhanced safety inspections” of commercial vehicles crossing into the state from Mexico in an effort to reduce migrant and drug smuggling, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Wednesday.

Abbott also pledged to use charter buses to voluntarily transport migrants from the border to Washington, D.C., moves he said were due to the Biden administration’s decision to lift Title 42, a Trump-era public health rule that has allowed federal immigration authorities to expel millions of migrants crossing the southern border to Mexico without letting them to seek asylum.

Abbott acknowledged that the stricter vehicle inspections will “dramatically slow traffic from Mexico into Texas,” but said they are necessary to combat cartel-led smuggling.

Republican lawmakers have warned that ending Title 42 on May 23 could lead to a massive influx in migrants arriving at the border, and have fought to keep the measure in place through stalling ongoing coronavirus relief funding negotiations in the U.S. Senate. The attorneys general of Missouri, Louisiana and Arizona sued the Biden administration on April 3 over its decision to end the policy.

A press release from Abbott’s office cited a projected increase of up to 18,000 migrant apprehensions a day linked to the policy’s end, a figure that comes from the Department of Homeland Security.

DPS Director Steve McCraw offered few details on the enhanced inspections, other than to say DPS is “going to ensure that every commercial vehicle that enters the state is safe.”

He said DPS troopers would direct truckers to the inspection points.

In 2019, approximately 792,440 trucks crossed into El Paso through its two commercial ports of entry, the Ysleta-Zaragoza International Bridge and the Bridge of the Americas, according to a 2021 Texas Department of Transportation report. That year, more than $76 billion in U.S.-Mexico trade passed through El Paso’s ports.

El Paso County Commissioner David Stout, who has long condemned Title 42, called Abbott’s proposal to bus migrants to the nation’s capital “completely ridiculous.” El Paso officials and migrant organizations would not comply, he said.

“We’re not going to be taking migrants and putting them on buses to Washington D.C.,” Stout said. “We’re working with the county, the city and our local nonprofits to welcome these folks, (which is something) that we should have been doing ever since the beginning.”

Abbott’s press release noted that charter bus transportation to Washington D.C., will be voluntary for migrants.

“Any forcible busing of migrants across the country would be outrageous and blatantly unconstitutional,” Kate Huddleston, staff attorney at ACLU of Texas, said in an emailed statement.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, senior policy counsel with the D.C.-based American Immigration Council, anticipates some migrants will take advantage of the free transportation.

“People who have been released from immigration custody are free … and they have a right to travel where they want,” Reichlin-Melnick said.

“I’m sure a lot of people would be happy to take him up on the offer,” Reichlin-Melnick continued. “If he is saying that people will be forcibly sent to DC against their will, that looks a lot like kidnapping.”

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