Gov. Greg Abbott is being criticized for tweets stating South African migrants are flowing illegally over the U.S. border. Posted Sunday and Monday on the governor’s official Twitter account, Abbott’s claims came in response President Joe Biden ‘s recent ban of travelers from the country and seven other African nations in light of the new Omicron COVID-19 variant whose origins have been traced back to South Africa.
The Republican leader called Biden’s action “hypocritical” and associated the move with the handling of the ongoing migrant crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border , which he has frequently criticized in recent months.
“Immigrants have recently been apprehended crossing our border illegally from South Africa,” Abbott tweeted Sunday. “Biden is doing nothing to stop immigrants from South Africa entering illegally. Pure politics and hypocrisy.
Biden banned travel from South Africa because of the new Covid variant.
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 28, 2021
On Monday, Abbott tweeted again about the travel ban, claiming that more than 50 illegal immigrants from South Africa and “other South African countries” have been apprehended by the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol in 2021, including 18 in the month of November. The CBP did not respond to a request for comment as of the time of this writing.
Meanwhile, U.S. Border Patrol data shows a total of 62 South African nationals have been apprehended crossing the southwest border between 2007 and 2020, out of the 6.8 million apprehensions made in that time period. Only six such apprehensions are listed for 2020. The number is so small that the department does not include the nation in monthly updates on its website.
Over 50 illegal immigrants from South Africa and other South African countries under the Biden travel ban have been apprehended by CBP this year, with 18 being apprehended this month alone. pic.twitter.com/bGnhHRK0ui
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) November 29, 2021
When reached for comment, Abbott spokesperson Renae Eze did not confirm whether Abbott was confusing South Africa with South America, and repeated the previous statement shared to the governor’s account. It’s also unclear whether Abbott was referring to a border patrol in Del Rio, Texas stopping more than 500 African migrants after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in 2019 . This group of migrants were from the Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Angola, according to the Associated Press — not South Africa.
“President Biden’s hypocritical handling of legal travel and border policies has shown the world that the United States is open — as long as you enter illegally,” Eze’s response stated. “Coming from over 150 countries around the world, including countries covered under the Biden travel ban, President Biden’s hands-off approach to our southern border has opened the floodgates to a 61-year record-high number of illegal immigrants surging into our state.”
Since Abbott launched his Operation Lone Star program in March, the National Guard and Department of Public Safety have detained more than 50,000 migrants and arrested over 9,700, Eze added.
Some online expressed confusion over Abbott’s claims of South Africans crossing the border while others ridiculed the governor. Abbott’s Monday tweet has garnered over 10,000 quote tweets, many critical. San Antonio-based migrant and refugee advocacy group RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services) tweeted “You do know that the continent of South America and the country of South Africa are two different places, right?”
You do know that the continent of South AMERICA and the country of South AFRICA are two different places, right? https://t.co/Kxt0JuRa9f
— RAICES (@RAICESTEXAS) November 29, 2021
Comedian Akilah Hughes tweeted “They’re not learning critical race theory in Texas because they’re not learning ANYTHING in Texas.”
They’re not learning critical race theory in Texas because they’re not learning ANYTHING in Texas. https://t.co/sVGrW22QLi
— Akilah Hughes (@AkilahObviously) November 29, 2021
South African politician Ashor Sarupen said: “Apparently, as a consequence of continental drift and some seismic activity, South Africa now shares a border with the U.S. Either that, or Greg Abbott is just demonstrating his American level of geography skills.”
Apparently, as a consequence of continental drift and some seismic activity, South Africa now shares a border with the US. https://t.co/xxGaObHJKh
— Ashor Sarupen MP (@AshorSarupen) November 29, 2021
On Sunday, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called for countries to reverse the travel bans arguing that "These restrictions are unjustified and unfairly discriminate against our country and our southern African sister countries,” according to Al Jazeera. “The only thing the prohibition on travel will do is further damage the economies of the affected countries and undermine their ability to respond to, and recover from, the pandemic.”
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