Texas Revolt and the Implications of  Immigration on the US Political Landscape



The standoff between Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott and  Biden’s administration regarding immigration  has revived a longstanding controversy that has evolved over the past decade. This issue has been increasingly politicized, exacerbating the crisis as the nation approaches the pivotal 2024 elections. While the recent escalation has provoked unprecedented rhetoric, including discussions of Texas’ secession, fears of civil unrest and heightened political polarization, a comprehensive examination of the crisis reveals a more nuanced reality. Despite the dire predictions, both parties have a unique opportunity to transcend their differences on an issue that has posed challenges for administrations from both ends of the political spectrum. Addressing this issue effectively could potentially diminish its significance as an electoral wedge in the upcoming 2024 elections.

Roots of the Crisis 

The  origins of the crisis can be traced back to successive US administrations failing to address illegal immigration, leading to its escalation into both an economic and security concern. The situation intensified during  Obama’s administration  and reached a critical point around 2010, marked by the influx of families from Central American countries in the Northern Triangle. These migrants, distinct from political or religious refugees, do not fall under US immigration law. The surge in asylum seekers has empowered Mexican smugglers, particularly along the expansive Texas border spanning over 1,200 miles. Advanced communication channels have further facilitated migrant routes toward the US border, posing significant challenges, notably for border states grappling with mounting influxes.

 In the years following  Obama’s tenure, subsequent administrations have grappled with rising immigration flows, mainly from Central America, employing varied approaches to address the challenge.  Obama’s administration initially pursued a deterrence strategy in 2014, characterized by intensified deportations, criminal prosecution and detention.  These measures aimed to dissuade migrants from making the journey, with the additional hope of  winning Republican backing for comprehensive immigration reform. However, this strategy failed to  win the intended support and instead exacerbated the crisis.

During his presidency starting in 2017, Donald Trump initiated the fulfilment of his campaign pledge to erect a border barrier. By the end of his term, the United States had completed over 720 kilometers of the new wall along the 3,145-kilometer border. Much of this construction occurred in areas already partially fortified. Trump’s policies, including stringent procedural changes in the Asylum Office and a drastic reduction in the annual refugee quota, aimed to curb immigration but inadvertently redirected migrant flows toward illegal entry points rather than reducing overall migration to official land ports.

 Amid the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, which prompted widespread border closures and travel restrictions globally, there has been a notable decrease in unauthorized immigration. However, the Trump administration leveraged the crisis to enforce stricter measures by invoking a public health emergency order, Title 42, empowering Border Patrol to expel border crossers to Mexico.  Despite these efforts, migrants devised alternative routes, leading to an uptick, particularly from countries grappling with political and economic turmoil like Nicaragua, Venezuela, Cuba and Haiti. Even with Trump out of office, these specific migration patterns present a significant challenge for the Biden administration as it grapples with managing the influx.  Against the backdrop of the political noise and division, there has been scant dialogue regarding the imperative of reforming the asylum system itself.

Immigration Issue: Biden Policy and Texas  Revolt 

It seems that the issue of immigration has reached a turning point under the Biden administration because of the following:

 Biden’s Measures 

Following his victory in the 2020 elections, President Joe Biden diverged from Trump’s approach, emphasizing a more compassionate stance on immigration. Notably, he increased the asylum quota to 125,000, the highest target since the 1990s, and curtailed the construction of Trump’s costly border wall. He also took measures to reunite separated families by establishing a task force and ceased the detention of families with children. However, bureaucratic hurdles hindered the actual resettlement of refugees, and his administration continued to limit refugee access at land borders while expediting deportations. Despite these efforts, migrant influxes persisted, exacerbated by strained relations with Mexico regarding the implementation of Title 42 and deteriorating ties with countries from which refugees originate. Complicating matters further, smugglers directed migrants to smaller cities like Del Rio, Eagle Pass in Texas, and Yuma, Arizona, where resources at frontline detention facilities were scarce.

The Department of Homeland Security has launched a fresh initiative to manage border crossings, introducing a parole program aimed at individuals from Venezuela, Cuba, Haiti and Nicaragua who lack proper documentation. Concurrently, the Biden administration has initiated trials for its mobile application, CBP One, permitting migrants to arrange appointments at land ports of entry before they arrive in the United States. While the parole program  has shown initial results,  frustration persists on the Mexican side of the border, where thousands of migrants are packed into shelters and tents, exacerbated by the expiration of Title 42 regulations.

Biden’s efforts to tighten asylum rules at the border have failed to win over Republican support, as they deride his actions and endorse a border security bill focused solely on strict enforcement, despite its slim chances of passing in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The American Civil Liberties Union, known for halting Trump’s transit ban, has initiated a lawsuit against Biden’s policies, mirroring their previous legal action. Additionally, a Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida has blocked specific parole programs used by the administration to release asylum seekers.  Biden’s policies remain susceptible to challenges from both left and right-leaning groups in the courts. In essence, Biden’s measures have not resolved the crisis but instead intensified it, with an increase in migrants exploiting loopholes aided by smugglers.

Texas  Revolt 

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has shifted the immigration debate from a predominantly federal discourse by introducing unprecedented, hardline rhetoric and initiatives, even within Texas. Since President Biden assumed office, Abbott has positioned Texas as the foremost adversary to the federal government’s border policies. This stance materialized in early 2021 when Abbott, without substantiated evidence, claimed that immigrants infected with COVID-19 were endangering Texans. Concerned by Biden’s relaxed immigration measures, Abbott embarked on a series of actions, starting in June 2021, aimed at shuttering over 50 shelters housing migrant children. Additionally, Abbott pledged to resume the border wall construction initiated by the Trump administration.

Abbott announced plans to fund his project by initially allocating $250 million from state funds. In addition to soliciting donations, he instructed Texas state troopers to apprehend and detain border crossers for state offenses like trespassing. The state has already begun installing razor wire along approximately 30 miles of the Rio Grande border, citing ongoing illegal immigration under the Biden administration. However, federal agents, tasked with border patrol duties, removed the wires as part of their mission, which includes aiding individuals attempting to cross the border, especially those in difficult situations.

In December 2023, tensions flared as Texas took legal action against federal agents for removing razor wire, alleging a state law breach. The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals supported Texas by issuing an injunction preventing wire removal, except in medical emergencies. The Department of Justice swiftly appealed to the Supreme Court, leading to a recent decision in 2024 to cancel the injunction, as requested by the Justice Department.

Following the Supreme Court’s decision to allow the removal of wires installed by Texas to deter immigration, the rift between state and federal authorities became increasingly public. Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s outspoken defiance, echoed by many GOP allies nationwide, marked a significant turning point. This escalation has transformed the conflict into a looming political and constitutional crisis, with no resolution in sight.

Abbott asserts that Texas has a constitutional obligation to protect itself from what he deems an “invasion,” contending that this right overrides any conflicting federal laws. Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, he vows to persist in fortifying the border with additional wire. Republican governors nationwide echoed support for Abbott, with  Trump also vocalizing his backing while campaigning in 2024 on the premise of regaining border control. The immigration policy dispute has intensified speculation about a constitutional crisis, as Texas challenges the authority of the administration and federal government and the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over the matter.

A Reading of the Crisis’s Dimensions and Significations 

The crisis cannot be approached from a single dimension, instead, it needs to be viewed from  several dimensions and it has numerous significations: 

 Objective Dimension 

Immigration poses a significant crisis for developed nations, particularly the United States, an essential destination amid mass migration. Cities like New York, Chicago and Denver are grappling with the strain on social services caused by the influx of refugees, many of whom lack housing or work permits. Local news is inundated with images of migrants stranded in public spaces, highlighting the pressing issue. Texas’ stance reflects the objective reality of facing a genuine crisis exacerbated by the surge of immigrants at its borders. The Biden administration’s policies, which have inadvertently encouraged unprecedented migration flows, have only compounded the challenges.

This challenge extends beyond Texas, with several Republican states aligning with its position, and even some liberal Democratic governors acknowledging the crisis. Recently, Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, took matters into her own hands by deploying the National Guard after the president  refused to foot  the bill for the state. Additionally, nine Democratic governors from Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and New Mexico have united to urge President Biden and Congress to address the pressing needs of states and cities struggling to keep up with the influx of newcomers. They have requested financial assistance to address immediate needs and a commitment to modernizing immigration laws.

 Political Employment 

The immigration issue has long been a target for political exploitation and partisan disputes, hindering the pursuit of viable legal solutions. However, as the 2024 presidential elections draw near, this exploitation has intensified, with Republican state governors, who ignited the crisis harboring ambitions for presidential candidacy. Trump’s involvement in the situation is also notable, given his status as Biden’s primary competitor in the upcoming elections. Trump’s tough stance on immigration aligns with his strategy to appeal to voters, particularly along the Texas border, where he achieved significant success with Latino voters in recent elections. Despite the region historically leaning toward the Democrats,  its social conservatism presents an opportunity for candidates like Trump to make inroads.

Republican leaders aiming for a future within the party continue to view robust border measures as politically advantageous, encouraged by the 2020 election results that suggest Trump’s approach has not alienated Latino voters as anticipated by some Democrats. Conversely, immigration remains a vulnerable spot for Biden, as evidenced by a May 2023 poll conducted by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, which indicated that 43% of Americans approved of his handling of the issue while 54% opposed it. Republicans have seized upon this dissatisfaction, which is widespread across the nation, with governors from Idaho and Nebraska even pledging to dispatch a limited number of state law enforcement officers to the border.

 Legal Dilemma 

For years, devising effective measures to deter immigrants from undertaking dangerous journeys to the United States, particularly from nations grappling with turmoil, economic crises, or rampant gang violence, has posed a significant legal challenge. The cornerstone of immigration regulation in the United States is the Refugee Act of 1980, which aligns with the legal definition of persecution outlined in Article 1 of the 1951 Convention. “A refugee as someone who owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of [their] nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail [themself] of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of [their] former habitual residence, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

The law creates two distinct routes to protection: “Refugee status and asylum. Refugees are people uprooted from their countries who meet the legal definition of persecution and apply for protection when they are outside the United States…. Asylum, on the other hand, is the route for people who are already in the United States — even if only by a few feet over the border.”  These cases are reviewed and accepted based on a designated annual quota for refugee admissions. The White House sets a yearly target for refugee admissions and collaborates with the federal government and humanitarian organizations to facilitate resettlement. Secondly, asylum provides a route for individuals already present in the United States, even if just a short distance from the border, to seek protection.

The challenge does not typically arise with individuals who apply for protection and successfully receive it through the annual quota system. Instead, it primarily concerns immigrants who arrive on US soil without proper identification papers. For them, a separate process unfolds, mainly revolving around immigration courts, where they encounter a bureaucratic procedure that often culminates in rejection despite amendments to immigration law. This policy shift has led to significant fluctuations in the number of individuals arriving at the southern border.

The legal complexities of the crisis highlight the challenge US lawmakers face in crafting legislation that balances multiple considerations. This includes adherence to federal laws, which reflect respect for international norms and American values, alongside demands from states for changes to enhance internal security, potentially conflicting with these norms and values. Humanitarian concerns related to the crisis further complicate matters, as migrant issues attract the attention of human rights organizations and serve as a pressure point  on politicians across party lines.

Proposed sweeping reforms to the asylum system, coupled with Biden’s pledge to “Shut down the border” under the proposed bill, have raised concerns among immigration advocates. They argue that such measures would restrict asylum seekers’ access to fair consideration of their claims in immigration courts and undermine the  United States’ role as a haven for those fleeing violence. Political tensions have exacerbated the issue, evident in the recent remarks from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, linking border policy strengthening to President Biden’s $110 billion aid package for Ukraine, Israel and other national security priorities.

The Crisis’ Potential Outcomes and Implications 

It is clear that the immigration crisis, with its various dimensions, will have implications at multiple levels in the United States such as the following:  

Impacting the 2024 Elections

Just as COVID-19 emerged as a central issue in the 2020 elections, contributing to Biden’s victory over Trump, it appears that immigration will take center stage in the 2024 elections. Like how COVID-19 influenced the outcome of the 2020 elections, immigration and border law enforcement are shaping up to be challenging issues for Biden and the Democrats, potentially hindering their re-election efforts. Trump is banking on the immigration card to bolster his chances in the upcoming elections, recognizing that he may have missed an opportunity to capitalize on it during previous elections.

During an election rally in Las Vegas, Trump acknowledged this shift. “Literally we couldn’t put it in a speech,” Trump said. Nobody wanted to hear about the border. We had no border problem. But now we can talk about the border because it’s never, ever been worse than it is now.” Trump is wary of Congress passing legislation currently under discussion between the two parties, fearing it could dilute the potency of this issue in the elections.

Finding an Off-Ramp Solution for  the Complicated Issue of Immigration 

Despite the political maneuvering surrounding the Texas crisis, it has sparked a much-needed debate between the two major parties. There is  growing Republican and Democratic recognition of the need to transcend legal obstacles and political divisions to address  of the  illegal immigration crisis along the southern border. Both parties acknowledge the gravity of the immigration issue and its repercussions on American communities, with Democrats also expressing concerns that the matter cannot be further postponed. This shared concern was evident in the bipartisan agreement among congressional leaders on legislation to amend immigration procedures. The Biden administration may find itself under pressure from Republicans to introduce amendments and procedures previously unaccepted, given the issue’s sensitivity and its substantial impact on voters. Biden may even be compelled to push for asylum restrictions that were once unthinkable, influenced not only by Republican pressure but also by Democrats, including officials in cities far from the border who are experiencing the effects of record-breaking numbers of asylum seekers arriving in the United States.

Hyperbole Regarding the Issues of Self-Determination and Political Rift

From a different perspective, internal and external actors have sought to amplify the crisis and capitalize on it for political gain. Speculation about the secession of Texas and its longstanding aspirations for self-determination emerged. In contrast, others interpreted the situation within the context of deepening political and social divisions in the United States. Beyond the borders, there was discourse suggesting that the nation was in peril, although historical dynamics of US politics often involve such disagreements and skirmishes, particularly during elections. US election campaigns are characterized by attacks, arguments, and biases — a longstanding tradition known as the “US Election Syndrome.” Both parties engage in tactics aimed at obstructing their opponents. The ongoing clash over the immigration crisis on the southern border represents a new manifestation of this syndrome.


The United States seems to be taking unprecedented measures to address mass immigration, abandoning  humanitarian principles that  have long been central to US immigration law and values, following in the footsteps of harsh measures adopted by European nations. However, the critical question remains: will these potential measures effectively stem the tide of frustrated migrants heading toward the US border or inadvertently exacerbate the situation, as seen in previous attempts? On the objective side of the crisis, there is uncertainty about the efficacy of these measures. However, from a political standpoint, could the Texas  revolt and the heightened confrontation between state and federal authorities pave the way for a bipartisan agreement on an effective immigration policy, transcending partisan and electoral tensions? Recent developments suggest that there may be a historic opportunity to bring about a radical shift in understanding this pressing issue, which has been a source of political division since the Obama era and has often been exploited for electoral and partisan gains.

Editorial Team