AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Promises to build a wall. Descriptions of American homes “invaded” by immigrants and a trail of “carnage.” Plans to arrest border crossers and haul them to jail.
It’s not Donald Trump in 2016. It’s Texas Gov. Greg Abbott 2021.
The ambitious Republican is first among a group of GOP governors who have picked up where the former president left off when it comes to hard-line immigration measures.
In recent weeks, Abbott has rolled out get-tough plans and rhetoric not seen before even in Texas, where Republicans have spent a decade making border security the centerpiece of their agenda. Abbott, who is viewed as a potential presidential contender in 2024, even promised to continue building Trump’s border wall and has adopted a questionable method of helping paying for it: crowdsourcing and solicitations.
Abbott’s new push has been called political theater, which he has rejected as the number of border crossers remains high. But it has gained Trump’s attention. The former president is due to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border for the first time since leaving the White House in January. He will appear with Abbott on Wednesday and is expected to be joined in Texas by other GOP lawmakers.
The moves from Abbott and other Republican governors, including some with possible 2024 aspirations, are one sign of how Trump’s anti-immigration policies are outliving his presidency.
Republican leaders who want a future in the party continue to see support for aggressive border measures as a political winner, buoyed by 2020 results that suggest that Trump’s tact did not drive away drive away Latino voters as some Democrats predicted.
There are signs the Republican pressure is working. After weeks of criticism for not visiting the border, Vice President Kamala Harris is set to go to El Paso on Friday.
“From a Republican audience perspective, it’s a rock-solid issue for the governor,” said Matt Langston, a Republican strategist in Texas. “It is an issue that is going to pay dividends for Gov. Abbott.”