Texans must love Gov. Greg Abbott’s taxpayer-funded Kindness-to-Migrants Busing Initiative

I’m sure Texans who support Abbott’s consistent anti-immigrant rhetoric are delighted to know they’ve involuntarily helped pay to make an asylum-seeking family’s life a little better.

Rex Huppke

I have to say, it’s really nice of Texas Gov. Greg Abbott to turn to migrants who recently entered the country seeking asylum and ask if taxpayers in his state can offer them a free, all-expenses-paid bus ride to Washington, DC.

You’re probably asking, “Wait a minute, I thought Abbott was one of those right-wing politicos who never misses a chance to pull some political stunt that dehumanizes immigrants but still backfires spectacularly. Why would he be generously offering state money to give them nice rides somewhere?”

I can’t explain it. All I know is Texans are paying for chartered buses that, according to news reports, have reclining seats, free movies, free water and baby food, and stop for free meals at McDonald’s.

'They helped us'

A story in the Washington Post said Victor Rodriguez, a 27-year-old barber from Venezuela, “jumped at the chance to take a free bus ride to D.C. with his wife, Ordalis, 26, and their two children, Jeremias, 5, and Luciana, 1.”

Rodriguez told the paper: “The truth is, they helped us. They gave us a hand so that we could arrive here and honestly, we are very grateful.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott

Isn’t that nice of Gov. Abbott to surprise Texas taxpayers by using their money to give Mr. Rodriguez and his family a comfortable ride to somewhere they wanted to go? And best of all, it’s a place far away from a state that has a governor who uses human beings as pawns in a fantastically self-owning game of “own the libs.”


Ordalis Heras, a 26-year-old Venezuelan asylum-seeker with two children, also received a complimentary taxpayer-funded bus ride to the nation’s capital. She told the Texas Tribune: “We are very thankful for all the help that has been given to us. Frankly, we did not have the money to get here otherwise, so we are very thankful for the help.”

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Involuntary kindness to migrants

What a relief. I’m sure Texans who support Abbott’s consistent anti-immigrant rhetoric are delighted to know they’ve involuntarily helped pay to make an asylum-seeking family’s life a little better.

Christina Abraham, a Chicago-based human rights attorney, told me that what Abbott is doing – what I’m calling “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s Taxpayer-Funded Kindness-to-Migrants Initiative” –  is not illegal, as long as it’s voluntary. 

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“If I was a tax-paying citizen of Texas, I’d be curious to know how much this is costing taxpayers, because it seems it only benefits Abbott’s campaign,” Abraham said. “Paying for a bus taking 22 to 30 people at a time sounds like a really inefficient way to alleviate any immigration issues.” 

An Abbott spokesperson wouldn't answer direct questions about the Taxpayer-Funded Kindness-to-Migrants Initiative and referred me to a statement released April 6 that said putting migrants on buses to Washington is a "response to the Biden border disaster." The statement said the state "will use any and all lawful powers to curtail the flow of drugs, human traffickers, illegal immigrants, weapons, and other contraband into Texas."

How giving migrants a chance to take a bus ride they want to take accomplishes any of those things is unclear.

Migrants wanting to seek asylum in the U.S. are directed to inquire with Mexican authorities by a Customs and Border Protection officer on the Paso Del Norte bridge in El Paso, Texas on December 6, 2021.

Abraham continued: “It raises the question to me as to what his true motivation was and whether he’s using taxpayer funds to perform publicity stunts that benefit his campaign and not the people of Texas.”

A publicity stunt? Heavens, no

Oh, I can’t imagine Abbott would pull a publicity stunt. Lately the governor has been way too busy ordering taxpayer-funded state troopers to perform unnecessary secondary inspections of trucks at points of entry along the border, jamming traffic for miles and keeping food and other goods from entering the country.

While the inspections have uncovered no smuggled drugs or humans, the AP reported that “U.S. grocery shoppers could soon notice shortages on shelves and higher prices unless the normal flow of trucks resumes.”

So no, Abbott doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to pull a political stunt that makes him look like a numbskull pandering to people willing to act against their own self-interests. (Late Friday, the governor quietly repealed the inspection order, presumably because he's a very serious person who only does serious things.)

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It seems clear his decision to approach people – people who fled unspeakable violence, came to this country seeking asylum, turned themselves into border officials who then screened and processed them as required by law – and offer a free chartered bus ride to a spot right outside the Fox News studio in Washington, DC, was 100% sincere.

“I think it was highly exploitative,” Abraham said.

OK, sure. But at least the people of Texas approve of Abbott’s busing program and are just fine paying for it, right?



Follow USA TODAY columnist Rex Huppke on Twitter @RexHuppke and Facebook: facebook.com/RexIsAJerk.