Pillen visits Texas again and promises more border assistance at Nebraska’s expense

A migrant family is seen wading through the Rio Grande as they cross from Mexico into the United States on September 30, 2023, in Eagle Pass, Texas. The photograph captured by John Moore/Getty Images depicts the challenges and risks faced by individuals and families seeking a better life by crossing the border.

Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen, along with over a dozen other Republican governors, made a strong show of solidarity with Texas Governor Greg Abbott in Eagle Pass, Texas. They affirmed their unwavering commitment to providing state taxpayer assistance in the ongoing border security dispute between Governor Abbott and President Joe Biden.

Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen attentively listens to a briefing near Eagle Pass, Texas, provided by Governor Greg Abbott on Sunday. The photograph, courtesy of the Nebraska Governor’s Office, captures the moment.

Presidents from both parties have faced challenges in addressing the issue of illegal border crossings between the United States and Mexico. In recent years, Republicans have often intensified the political debate surrounding the Southern border during election seasons. Governor Abbott has added a new element to this dynamic by reaching out to other governors from red states, seeking their assistance without reimbursement.

Pillen has already allocated $1 million in state funds to deploy drone pilots from the Nebraska State Patrol and 61 members of the Nebraska National Guard to South Texas. He plans to use federal pandemic relief funds to help cover the expenses, but he recognizes that Nebraskans are still contributing to the overall cost.

On Sunday, he made a commitment to provide additional assistance from the state of Texas, although he didn’t specify the exact nature of the help. He mentioned that he plans to meet with leaders from the National Guard, the Nebraska Emergency Management Agency, and State Patrol to assess the requirements and determine the practicality of various options.

He, along with other Republican governors, is joining Abbott’s “Operation Lone Star” in an effort to curb the influx of illegal border crossings. These crossings reached unprecedented levels after a significant decrease during the COVID-19 pandemic due to stricter regulations. Abbott stated that a total of 25 Republican governors have pledged their support to assist Texas.

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Why Nebraska says it is sending people

Pillen and State Patrol leaders have emphasized the importance of their efforts in reducing the trafficking of people and illegal substances across the border. They argue that such activities have detrimental consequences for individuals and public safety in Nebraska and other states. Specifically, they highlight the importation of illegal fentanyl and its alarming impact as a leading cause of death among young individuals.

President Joe Biden, along with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, addressed the Hamas terrorist attacks in Israel during a speech in the State Dining Room of the White House on October 10, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

“We may be in the middle of the United States, but as a border state, we are committed to enhancing border security,” stated Pillen on Sunday. “Our aim is to play our part in securing the border.”

During a 90-minute briefing with Abbott and the Texas Department of Public Safety, Pillen stated in an interview that the actions taken by the governors are not driven by political motivations. One of the speakers highlighted by Abbott was Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, who also serves as the chairman of the Republican Governors Association. Pillen was present at Abbott’s press conference but did not address the audience.

Costs of immigration rhetoric

The League of United Latin American Citizens of Nebraska and other local Latino critics have expressed their concerns about Pillen’s approach, stating that it unnecessarily fosters negative sentiments towards all Nebraska Latinos, not just undocumented immigrants.

Some residents believe that he undermines their trust in law enforcement by using his immigration rhetoric to appeal to conservative audiences for political gain.

Elsa Aranda, the local president of Omaha, expressed her disappointment with elected leaders in Nebraska constantly focusing on the immigration issue without pushing for solutions.

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“This is causing harm to individuals like myself, fellow church members, and hardworking individuals,” she expressed.

According to Joe Henry, a regional director of LULAC in neighboring Iowa, the GOP governors are engaging in “political grandstanding.”

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump took part in a Fox News Town Hall on January 10, 2024, in Des Moines.

According to Henry, if the governors truly want to address border security, they should be urging the congressional delegation to back the immigration plan currently being developed by the Senate. This plan is said to expedite the asylum-seeking process, simplify the procedure for obtaining work permits, and grant the president the power to close the border if there is a significant influx of people crossing.

House GOP leaders have voiced doubts about the likelihood of reaching an agreement.

Henry criticized the act of spending state tax dollars on playing politics at the border, especially when Congress has already reached a bipartisan agreement on the matter.

Possible Senate deal, or not

The issue of immigration has once again gained attention in recent weeks, as former President Donald Trump has publicly voiced his opposition to a potential deal with Senate negotiators. This deal aims to enhance the presidential authority to address border crossings and deport individuals instead of apprehending them and releasing them until their court date.

Abbott and the Biden administration are currently involved in a legal battle concerning the issue of whether a state can challenge federal authority over the border. Abbott’s actions, such as placing buoys and razor wire in the Rio Grande River and reinstating barriers that were previously removed by the federal government for environmental and safety purposes, have faced criticism from migrant advocates.

Abbott stood up for the use of razor wire near Eagle Pass, asserting that it played a significant role in reducing the number of crossings. The crossings have decreased from 3,000 or 4,000 per day to a mere three per day recently. The Associated Press reported that the port of entry at Eagle Pass has experienced a drop in crossings to the hundreds. However, some people counter-argued that the cartels have merely relocated their crossing points.

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Oklahoma Republican Senator James Lankford engaged in discussions regarding border policy negotiations outside the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, December 7, 2023.

The Border Patrol was given permission by the Supreme Court to remove the razor wire, but Texas has chosen to reinstall it. Moreover, Texas has imposed limitations on the Border Patrol’s access to a riverfront park in Eagle Pass. The tragic incident of a mother and her two children drowning in the river brought significant attention to the presence of razor wire. Governor Abbott has held the Biden administration accountable for this incident and has vowed to increase the implementation of razor wire.

According to Abbott and Pillen, both of whom are GOP governors, the federal government should put in more effort to discourage additional individuals from coming. They argue that the current administration has exacerbated the situation, making it worse than it was during Trump’s presidency.

According to Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, the State of Texas and border agents successfully prevented 169 individuals on the terror watch list from entering the country in 2023.

Abbott’s legal battle has resulted in the removal of border patrol agents from certain Texas land, citing a constitutional provision that empowers states to defend themselves. While most legal experts assert that the federal government holds the ultimate authority in immigration enforcement, Abbott and other governors from red states have faced backlash for transporting migrants to states led by blue governments.

“We are coming together to send a strong and unequivocal message that we are united in our determination to protect our states from any imminent threats or invasions,” stated Abbott on Sunday. He further emphasized, “Joe Biden, the responsibility now lies with you.”

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