TEXAS — There’s been a dramatic uptick in migrants seeking asylum at the U.S.-Mexico border in recent days, and now Texas Gov. Greg Abbott wants to know if non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, are facilitating illegal border crossings into Texas.
NGOs are typically nonprofits that work independently of governments and address social or political issues. In this case they are providing humanitarian relief to migrants who make a long, difficult journey to the U.S. border and live in squalid conditions while awaiting asylum hearings.
Abbott in a letter on Wednesday directed Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton to investigate if NGOs are “planning and assisting illegal border crossings into Texas.”
“There have been recent reports that non-governmental organizations may have assisted with illegal border crossings near El Paso,” Abbott wrote in the letter. “We further understand NGOs may be engaged in unlawfully orchestrating other border crossings through activities on both sides of the border, including in sectors other than El Paso.”
Abbott in his letter did not cite any specific instances of NGOs helping migrants to cross the border into Texas.
The COVID-19 pandemic-era health order Title 42 is slated to expire on Dec. 21. The policy allows law enforcement to return migrants to Mexico without an asylum hearing in order to reduce the spread of the virus. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have called on President Joe Biden to extend the policy. It’s believed the coming expiration is encouraging more migrants to make the trip to the border.
Democratic Rep. Veronica Escobar, who is based in El Paso, issued a statement on Wednesday blasting Abbott over his call for the investigation.
“Governor Abbott’s decision to investigate NGOs that are providing humanitarian care for migrants is shameful and intended to intimidate and instill fear in non-profit and faith-based organizations that exemplify the values we should all aspire to,” Escobar wrote.
“Most border NGOs that work tirelessly on the border help provide temporary shelter, food and hospitality to migrants, most of whom will be awaiting adjudication of their asylum claims with sponsors they have in different parts of the country. They have been doing this work for decades and deserve our praise, not persecution,” she continued.