Putting migrants on a bus to go to Chicago or New York or Vice President Kamala Harris’ house isn’t solving the problem at Texas’ southern border, gubernatorial challenger Beto O’Rourke told late-night host Jimmy Kimmel in a friendly interview Thursday night.

“Sending these migrants to DC, to Chicago, to New York — now to the vice president’s house — isn’t doing anything for them. It’s not doing anything for us,” O’Rourke told Kimmel. “It’s not addressing the underlying challenge that we have in terms of our immigration system.”

What You Need To Know

  • Democratic gubernatorial candidate Beto O'Rourke says putting migrants on buses isn't solving the immigration issue at the Texas border

  • He made the comments during an appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" in LA, where he was attending high-dollar fundraisers

  • Gov. Greg Abbott has called the busing “taking the problem to (Pres. Joe) Biden” 

"Jimmy Kimmel Live" is filmed in Los Angeles. O’Rourke was making a swing through California to attend high-dollar fundraisers and make local appearances, a choice Gov. Greg Abbott’s campaign labeled “going Hollywood” earlier in the summer.

Abbott has called busing immigrants who enter Texas to so-called northern sanctuary cities — about 10,000 to date — “taking the problem to (Pres. Joe) Biden.” Democrats have called it a political ploy, with O’Rourke suggesting it’s time Texas drafts its own immigration policy.

The last time federal immigration law was rewritten, Ronald Reagan was president, O’Rourke said. People are coming to the United States to work, to join family, to seek asylum. Some will face certain death if they or their children return to their home country.

“What if we lead the way on ensuring that if you want to come to this country, you have to follow our laws, but on our part, we will lead the way in rewriting our laws so they reflect our values, our interests, our needs,” O’Rourke said. “There should be a safe, legal, orderly path for those who want to come to this county to do better for themselves.”

Local officials along the border, both cities and counties, are overburdened with the constant stream of immigrants crossing the border. According to the most recent statistics, close to 820,000 new court cases have been filed with immigration court this year. At the end of August, the backlog was 1.9 million pending immigration cases.

Texas cities and counties are overloaded with the record-setting burden of illegal migrants crossing the border, Abbott said in interviews when the bussing began.

“We met with more than two-dozen local officials who represent either cities or counties on the border,” Abbott said. “And I’ve gotta tell you, they are angry and upset about all of the catastrophes caused by the Biden open border policies. They are urgently asking for action.”

In an interview with Fox News on July 17, Abbott said no one had done more — and spent more — to secure the country’s southern border.

“I’ve done more than any governor in the history of the United States of America to secure the border,” Abbott said. “It is now time for states like New York and cities like New York City to begin to shoulder some of that burden.”

Texas is doing nothing that the Biden administration hasn’t done, Abbott said, referring to an oft-claimed Republican talking point that Biden, in the darkness of night, had put illegal immigrants on planes and flown them into New York.

“Joe Biden brought them in and not once did the New York mayor ever condemn the Biden administration for what they were doing, to put those illegal immigrants into New York City,” Abbott said, defending himself against the criticism of the New York mayor. “They’re just a bunch of hypocrites.”

A Politifact review of the claim did not see it as an apples-to-apples comparison.

In fact, O’Rourke’s hometown of El Paso, which O’Rourke represented in Congress for seven years, also chose to bus 133 migrants to New York City, according to reporting in the New York Post. City officials claimed a flood of up to 900 migrants a day was overwhelming the city’s shelters. The buses were received by the nonprofit group Grannies Respond, which formed in 2018 to support immigrants in the border surge.

Abbott sees a catastrophe the federal government failed to solve. O’Rourke sees an opportunity for Texas to drive a solution.  

That Texas is full of immigrants is one reason the state has been so successful, O’Rourke told Kimmel. But getting immigrants on a legal path is timely and complicated. The timeline to go through the process of joining a family member in Texas is 20 years. The average time frame to adjudicate an asylum case is six years.

“For six years, you might be living in a refugee camp in squalor in Sierra Juarez, with your child, hoping that nothing will happen to them,” O’Rourke said. “What if, in all those instances, we address them with solutions, a Texas-based guest worker program, or lifting the visa cap so you’re not waiting 20 years in a line?”

That adjudication process could be six weeks, instead of six years, O’Rourke said. All Texas needs is the political leadership — the will — to get that done.

“They’re going to have these theatrics and stunts on the border that have done nothing to help anyone,” O’Rourke said. “Or we’re actually going to lead on an issue that we know better than anyone else.”

O’Rourke’s appearance on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" was ostensibly to talk about his book, "We’ve Got To Try: How the Fight for Voting Rights Makes Everything Else Possible." But O’Rourke knew he had a friendly audience: An estimated 12% of his campaign donations come from California, including a donation from Kimmel.