"Appalling": Abbott orders Texas to close points of entry as 8,000 migrants wait under bridge in Del Rio

As of last night, there were 4,200 waiting. The number has doubled in a day.

What will it be tomorrow?

The situation in Del Rio, Texas, this afternoon is a little different from the usual situation. The crowd of 8,000 isn’t making a run for it across the border; they’re surrendering to the Border Patrol near the bridge and then being given a number while they wait to have their asylum application processed. They’re not Mexicans or Central Americans either, by and large. They’re Haitians, some of whom had been living in South America for several years and have now made the move north in hopes that Biden’s porous borders policy means they can finally get into the United States.

Fox’s Bill Melugin has been posting images of the crowd on Twitter. It’s a scene:

Once upon a time not too long ago, notes Melugin, a group of thousands baking in the Texas heat with little to eat or drink and just 20 port-a-potties for all of them would be treated as a humanitarian crisis by people who profess to care about such things:

Local authorities in Del Rio are shocked by the crowds and fear it could get much worse soon:

We’ve been speaking with both the sheriff and county judge in Del Rio, they tell me while they’ve never seen anything like this, there’s nothing that can be done to stop them from coming…

Some are walking across with bags, Val Verde County Judge Lewis Owens tells me while the immigrants wait to be processed they walk back and forth between the U.S. and Mexico to buy food.

Judge Owens says a caravan of 25,000 migrants is headed for the Texas border, how quick they’ll get here is unknown.

Rep. Tony Gonzales visited the scene and told local media that it’s his understanding that most of the 8,300 people there at moment arrived just within the past two days. “I am at the southern border every week and this is worse than anything I have ever seen,” he said.

Greg Abbott was also shocked by the spectacle and issued a statement within the past few hours promising action, which may he may or may not have legal authority to do but which is certainly good politics. “The sheer negligence of the Biden Administration to do their job and secure the border is appalling. I have directed the Department of Public Safety and the Texas National Guard to surge personnel and vehicles to shut down six points of entry along the southern border to stop these caravans from overrunning our state,” he wrote. “The border crisis is so dire that the U.S. Customs and Border Protection is requesting our help as their agents are overwhelmed by the chaos. Unlike President Biden, the State of Texas remains committed to securing our border and protecting Americans.”

Can Abbott enforce the international border if Biden refuses to? Probably not:

What would it mean to “shut down” points of entry in a situation like this? Abbott can’t stop the Border Patrol from doing its job. If he tries to physically block roads into the U.S., presumably the migrants will just bypass them and surrender to the BP anyway, believing they have nothing to lose. If they’ve come this far, they’re not going to let the risk of criminal charges imposed by the state of Texas keep them from going the last hundred yards.

The Border Patrol is promising that people traveling alone as well as most families will be turned away under the CDC’s Title 42 authority to restrict entry into the U.S. during a pandemic. But that’s easier said than done:

The Biden administration says it will continue to use its emergency authorities under Title 42 of the U.S. public health code to rapidly return or “expel” migrants. But Mexican authorities have declined to take back Haitians in recent months.

The Biden administration curtailed deportation flights to Haiti after the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse in July and a 7.2-magnitude earthquake Aug. 14 that killed more than 2,000. And the Department of Homeland Security has extended temporary protected status, or TPS, eligibility for Haitians, a measure that allows Haitians living in the United States without legal status to qualify for provisional residency and avoid deportation.

Haitian migrants who make it here may actually have a decent case for asylum given the natural disaster and political calamity that’s befallen their country, so Biden may be reluctant to send them home. And even if he lets the Border Patrol put them on planes to Port-au-Prince, the crush of people in Del Rio creates another logistical problem. “[T]he Del Rio Sector is 240 miles wide,” said the city’s mayor to WaPo. “If the attention is given here to these 8,000 people, that opens up a big question: Who’s watching the rest of the sector?” Who indeed?

It’s Biden’s move now. Will he let Abbott do what he can to limit entry into the U.S. or will he go to court to assert federal authority in creating a de facto open border? A lot of Democrats in Congress anxious about the midterms will be watching. And they might not be rooting for Biden in this one.