Republican officials in several Texas border counties have declared that the illegal immigration crisis is an "invasion" of their communities and called on Gov. Greg Abbott to declare an emergency and begin deportations.
Officials from Uvalde, Terrell, Kinney, and Goliad Counties held a press conference Tuesday in which they announced that emergency declarations would be forthcoming to call attention to the harms inflicted by the federal government's failure to secure the border.
"I am here to let you know that the invasion is real," Terrell County Judge Dale Lynn Carruthers said.
"We are here to protect the sovereignty of our nation, not just the border of Texas," she added.
A press release from Kinney County states that in the month of June, local law enforcement has prevented more than 67 smuggling attempts along county roads and encountered over 4,000 illegal aliens "who avoided apprehension by Border Patrol and whose whereabouts are currently unknown."
Since January 2021, more than 3.2 million migrants have been apprehended by law enforcement after entering the country illegally and upwards of 800,000 have slipped past Border Patrol and disappeared into the country, officials pointed out.
Uvalde Mayor Don McLaughlin said rampant illegal immigration has brought an influx of pedophiles, convicted murderers, drug dealers, and gang members into his community.
"It’s a nightmare. With the tragedy that we just had, our kids are going to be going back to school in the next 45 days or so, and here we’re going to start agin with the bailouts and so forth. It needs to stop. We need to make them come across the right way so we know who they are and where they’re going,” he said.
Goliad County Judge Mike Bennett told reporters there's been an increase in stolen cars and property damage reported over the last two years. He said increased crime rates are "stealing our resources" because more and more of the county budget has to be directed towards law enforcement.
"The Biden administration won't do a thing about it," Kinney County Judge Tully Shahan said. "We’re in over our head. We need help and we need for Attorney General Ken Paxton and our governor to adopt an invasion under its definition in the Constitution. Adopt that invasion and let’s move forward.”
The counties invoked Article IV, Section 4 of the U.S. Constitution and Article 4, Section 7 of the Texas Constitution to declare the existence of an "invasion" of the country. They urged Abbott to do likewise and "take necessary actions to preserve and protect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Texas."
Their appeal to the Constitution to have state governments enforce federal immigration law is a strategy that has been put forward by conservative activists, including former Trump administration official Ken Cuccinelli, who has advised the county officials and spoke at the press conference.
Cuccinelli said that using the “self-help provision of the Constitution to declare an invasion … gives the governor, decided similarly, the authority to repeal that invasion.”
An Abbott spokeswoman told the Houston Chronicle that "all strategies remain on the table" to confront the border crisis.
“As the challenges on the border continue to increase, Texas will continue to take additional unprecedented action to address those challenges caused by the Biden administration,” she said.
But legal experts like David Bier, the associate director of immigration studies at the libertarian Cato Institute, have criticized the counties' use of the term "invasion," discounting the criminal elements coming over the border and emphasizing that the federal government has broad powers over immigration policy.
“The people coming are actively seeking to place themselves under the laws of the United States by seeking asylum,” Bier told the Chronicle. “So the idea that the first ‘invasion’ in the history of the world where invaders seek to subject themselves to the law of the country that they’re invading — it’s a total mischaracterization of what an invasion is.”
Legal scholar Jonathan Turley made similar comments to Fox News Tuesday.
"I'm afraid I'm skeptical. As they say in Texas, this dog won't hunt. They're relying on the guarantee clause of Article Four, Section Four, and that deals with an invasion, which is generally interpreted and long interpreted to mean an actual foreign invasion in the form of an army, an organized force," Turley said.
"I don't think a court would seriously consider expanding the term 'invasion' to cover this."
Still, conservative lawmakers are supporting the counties' declaration.
"We are dealing with an invasion," Rep. Chip Roy (R-Texas) told Fox News Wednesday. "We are dealing with Texans dying from fentanyl pouring into our communities. Our ranchers are getting overrun, their livestock are getting out, their fences are getting cut. Our communities are dealing with that. So all that these leaders in the counties in south Texas are asking for is that Texas step up and we go do what the federal government refuses to do."
"Texas is the collateral damage of a federal government that is leaving us dangling," Roy said.