More On: Beto O'Rourke
In their first debate for governor on Friday night, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and his Democratic opponent, Beto O'Rourke, took shots at each other over the ongoing border crisis that is affecting the whole state.
The moderators of the debate started it off by asking the candidates about the hot-button issue of immigration. This year, Texas has had a record number of border encounters, so the moderators asked the candidates questions about this.
The decision by Gov. Abbott to send migrants by bus to cities in the north, like New York, was a major point of disagreement, with the incumbent praising the move and O'Rourke calling it a political stunt.
“Under the Biden administration, we have more people coming across the border than ever in the history of our country,” said Abbott.
“Texas has responded by making sure that we have the National Guard and DPS deployed where they are making arrests and turning people back, illegal immigrants, as well as what we’re doing by bussing people from where border security has dropped them off to sanctuary cities in the Northeastern part of the country.”
O’Rourke said he expected Abbott to place the blame on Biden for the border crisis despite him having been governor for the past eight years, calling his “Operation Lonestar” border security program a failure.
“We are eight years into his time as governor and this is what we have on our border,” O’Rourke shot back. “In fact, $4 billion into Operation Lonestar we’re seeing not fewer but more encounters at our border right now.
“What we need is a safe, legal, orderly path for anyone who wants to work, to join family or to seek asylum. “If you come to this country we expect you to follow the law. But on our side we expect our laws to reflect our values.”
US Customs and Border Protection released numbers this month that show that in the last 11 months, a record 2 million people crossed the border illegally.
Abbott said that Texas shouldn't have to pay more for Operation Lonestar because it's the job of the Biden administration to protect the border.
O'Rourke said that no more money should be given to the "failed" program, which he called "political theater for Abbott's political career."
“We’ve only seen more come. Now they get a bus ride to Chicago or Washington D.C. or New York. We don’t need any more stunts — we need solutions.”
Panelists showed Gov. Abbott a clip of New York City Mayor Eric Adams speaking at a press conference in which he claimed that he had reached out to the Texas governor to coordinate a plan for bussing migrants into the city, but said Abbott refused.
Abbott called the Mayor’s statement “flat out false.”
“This operation began after meeting with local officials — sheriffs, mayors, police chiefs and county judges — where they were overrun with the number of migrants that border patrol had dumped into their tiny little communities. They needed relief and bussing became one of the ways of providing them relief and thus began the process of bussing the migrants to cities as sanctuary cities.
“Mayor Adams has never called my office, never talked to him about it in my administration and so what he’s saying is flat out false.”
Abbott mentioned how the border city of El Paso, a Democratic-led city where O’Rourke was formerly mayor, is also bussing more migrants to other cities than the state of Texas.
“That’s a completely different program,” O’Rourke responded, accusing Abbott of “treating human beings as political pawns.”
When Abbott was asked why he wasn’t bussing migrants to sanctuary cities in Republican states, like New Orleans, Louisiana or Atlanta, Georgia, he said the larger northern cities have better infrastructure to accommodate them while pledging to send migrants to more cities in the future.
“There will be other cities in the future that also will be on the receiving of migrants because we will continue to have to move migrants because Joe Biden continues to allow more illegal immigrants to come into the state of Texas.”
Polls show that Abbott is always ahead of O'Rourke in the race. In 2018, O'Rourke came to national attention after losing to Sen. Ted Cruz by only 3 percentage points. Democrats hope that the state, which is controlled by the GOP, will soon become purple or even blue.
RealClearPolitics' average of polls shows that Abbott is ahead of O'Rourke by eight percentage points. Abbott hasn't changed his mind, even though O'Rourke has raised more money than the two-term incumbent, at least $30 million more in the first half of this year.
On Friday, the candidates met in person for the first time since O'Rourke confronted Abbott at a press conference after the Uvalde shootings.