Greg Abbott

Texas Governor

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has openly targeted immigrants in his state during his tenure, most notably seeking to dismantle DACA and ending his state’s refugee resettlement program. After working to block DAPA and an expanded version of DACA in 2014, Abbott signed SB 4 into law in Texas in 2017.

  • Abbott has made immigration crackdowns a key part of his agenda both as Texas Attorney General and as the state’s governor. In addition to Abbott and current Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s legal attacks on DAPA and DACA, the Texas politician withdrew the state from the federal refugee resettlement program in 2016, forcing agencies to negotiate directly with the federal government for funding, and signed into law SB4; the harsh interior enforcement immigration measure which has been compared to Arizona’s SB 1070.
  • The Texas Justice department is behind many of the legal attacks on DACA and Dreamers, and in October 2017, Ken Paxton admitted to having had conversations with the Trump Administration, including the Department of Justice about ending DACA.

Anti-immigrant Views

  • Governor Abbott complained about a Supreme Court decision which found denying public education to K-12 students based on their immigration status unconstitutional. In August 2019, Abbott complained about the decision on Twitter saying: “5 liberals on the Supreme Court ruled that Texas had to provide and fund public education for illegal immigrants. The next decade, in Texas v. U. S., Federal courts rejected our lawsuit that the federal government should pay for that education cost.”
  • In June 2018, Gov. Abbott defended President Trump’s policy of separating children from their parents, and instead blamed Democrats in Congress for the humanitarian crisis while speaking with a local news network. The Governor followed this with a letter to the Texas delegation putting the responsibility on them, rather than calling on the Trump Administration to end the manufactured crisis it had started.
  • According to a 2019 fundraising letter brought to light by the Texas Signal and the Texas Tribune, Abbott called on Republicans to “defend” Texas against undocumented immigrants crossing along the U.S.-Mexico border: “Unless you and I want liberals to succeed in their plan to transform Texas — and our entire country — through illegal immigration, this is a message we MUST send.” The letter was sent to his supporters just one day before the massacre in El Paso, Texas when a gunman who targeted Latinx people opened fired at a Walmart, killing twenty-two people.
  • The Texas Governor pushed for increases in harsh and unpopular measures such as the border wall by misrepresenting immigrants as criminals. In 2014, Abbott wrongly claimed that 3,000 murders had been conducted by undocumented immigrants in Texas due to lax border control. 
  • In 2019, Governor Abbott stood behind a botched voter purge that incorrectly claimed 95,000 non-citizens were registered to vote, a claim widely debunked and has previously called voter fraud an “epidemic.” 

Anti-immigrant Activity

  • In 2016, Gov. Abbott withdrew Texas from the federal refugee program after he unsuccessfully sued to keep Syrian refugees out of Texas. Following President Trump’s Muslim ban, which included restrictions on refugee entry, the state’s resettlement efforts have dwindled.
  • In May 2017, Governor Abbott signed S.B.4 into law via Facebook Live. The law, which is widely considered one of the harshest state immigration laws currently on the books, will allow law enforcement officials to inquire about a person’s immigration status when they are held for any legal detention, including a routine traffic stop. The Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops strongly opposed the bill and, prior to its signing, called on the Governor to veto it.
  • Abbott and Ken Paxton have spent years launching legal attacks on the DACA program, and its recipients, in an attempt to have the program deemed unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court and to expel Dreamers from the U.S.
  • Just two days after President Obama’s announcement on DAPA and an expansion of the DACA program, The Washington Post reported that then-IRLI lawyer Kris Kobach stated at a community forum that he had “already begun drafting a suit as the lead attorney, with plans to file it in early December,” and that “Texas is interested in being a plaintiff.” On December 3, 2014, then-Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott filed a lawsuit challenging DAPA and DACA+. From there, the newly elected Attorney General, Ken Paxton, shepherded the lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court, which agreed to hear the case, but remained divided and gave no decision on the case in a 4-4 tie. 
  • In June 2017, President Trump rescinded the DAPA memo. Abbott’s Attorney General Ken Paxton thanked President Trump, but swiftly threatened that the United States should also rescind the DACA program or he might amend the U.S. v. Texas case to make the DACA program and its constitutionality its central question. A few months later in September 2017, Trump repealed the 2012 DACA program as well, citing legal vulnerabilities. After several federal courts barred the Trump Administration from ending the program, Texas filed a lawsuit in Judge Andrew Hanen’s court seeking a nationwide injunction against DACA renewals in May 2018. 
  • IRLI is one of the primary architects behind the legal attacks on undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. at a young age and the DACA program. Following the Supreme Court’s failure to reach a majority decision in the U.S. v. Texas case, IRLI issued a press release lauding the outcome, and confirming its behind-the-scenes work to attack these immigrants: “IRLI advised the Texas Attorney-General’s office on key facets of the case and filed a total of six friend-of-the-court briefs throughout the case’s proceedings.” It has been reported that Kris Kobach who worked for IRLI for a number of years was a close ally of both Ken Paxton and Greg Abbott, the key players in the U.S. vs Texas case. 
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