Center for Policing Equity Issues Statement on Texas Gov. Abbott's Threat to Claim War Powers and Enlist State Police in Detaining and Deporting Migrants

May 13 2022

The Center for Policing Equity (CPE) views with grave concern recent statements by Texas Governor Greg Abbott signaling that the next stage in his anti-migrant efforts may be to invoke war powers, declaring unauthorized migration into Texas an "invasion" and allowing state police to arrest and deport migrants "immediately." 

In choosing the language of "invasion," Abbott is leaning on a clause in the U.S. Constitution that reads "No State shall…engage in War, unless actually invaded.” Legal experts have warned that claiming powers normally reserved for the federal government would likely not survive a Justice Department challenge, and Abbott himself has acknowledged that it could expose Texas law enforcement to prosecution, but added: "Is it something we’re looking into? Yes." This despite the fact that there is no evidence that increasing officer numbers has any impact on unauthorized migration. Adding, or threatening to add, state officers to what is already a bloated police presence in Texas' border towns will only leave residents feeling more targeted and less secure, destabilizing rather than improving public safety.

Abbott's "invasion" threat must be seen in the context of equally reprehensible policies throughout American history: President Eisenhower oversaw the deportation of 1.3 million people, many of them American citizens, in the course of "operation wetback"; 21st century ICE raids and "show me your papers" laws have shattered whole communities and likewise led to the deportation of American citizens. Brown communities have lived for decades with the terror and uncertainty that these policies engender, shouldering that trauma along with the relentless dehumanization of non-White immigrants that is a set piece of American politics.

Abbott has successfully side-stepped Constitutional concerns in pursuit of extremist policies in the past, but even should this latest threat prove impossible to implement, merely framing the vulnerable people hoping to enter this country as "invaders'' has ratcheted up the hateful rhetoric and threat of state violence that define his administration. The vast majority of migrants at our border fled their homes to protect themselves and their families from economic catastrophe or political violence. They deserve our compassion and support, not the punitive treatment of a governor determined to use their vulnerability to score political points.


About Center for Policing Equity: As a research and action organization, Center for Policing Equity (CPE) produces analyses identifying and reducing the causes of racial disparities in law enforcement. Using evidence-based approaches to social justice, we use data to create levers for social, cultural and policy change. Center for Policing Equity also holds a 501(c)3 status.