Abbott scrambles to exploit deaths of migrants found in Texas

There was a heartbreaking report out of Texas overnight, where dozens of migrants were found dead in an abandoned big rig in San Antonio. As NBC News reported, it appears to be the deadliest human smuggling case in modern U.S. history.

The bodies of at least 46 people were initially found in the tractor-trailer in the sweltering Texas heat, officials said. Sixteen others, including four children, were hospitalized, San Antonio Fire Chief Charles Hood said. On Tuesday morning, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador said the death toll had risen to 50. He said 22 of the dead were Mexican nationals, while seven were from Guatemala and two from Honduras. The nationalities of the remaining 19 people had yet to be confirmed.

The report added that following the discovery of the truck, three people were taken into custody.

It’s not surprising that Texas Gov. Greg Abbott commented on the developments. What was surprising was what the Republican had to say.

“These deaths are on Biden,” Abbott wrote on Twitter. “They are a result of his deadly open border policies. They show the deadly consequences of his refusal to enforce the law.”

Right off the bat, part of the problem with the GOP governor’s pitch is the failure in logic. If the Biden administration had “open border policies,” human smugglers wouldn’t have packed dozens of migrants into a truck as part of a scheme to enter the United States illegally.

In other words, if there were an open border, the migrants would’ve taken advantage of that, rather than put their lives at risk. They wouldn’t have paid smugglers to pack them into a container. The tragic story serves as a reminder that Abbott’s principal talking point isn’t true, even as he brings attention to the evidence that discredits his own claim.

What’s more, incidents like these occurred long before President Joe Biden took office. During Donald Trump’s presidency, for example, there was a similarly deadly incident, also near San Antonio, in which 10 migrants died after being trapped inside a truck.

I can’t find evidence of any prominent political figure, in either party, responding to their deaths by saying, “These deaths are on Trump.”

In 2003, as The Dallas Morning News noted, the bodies of 19 migrants were also found in a sweltering truck southeast of San Antonio. It doesn’t appear to have occurred to anyone to issue a public statement saying, “These deaths are on Bush.”

But even putting these relevant details aside, think about the perspective of a politician who learns of the deaths of dozens of human beings, and immediately responds, not with condolences, but with cheap and deceptive rhetoric intended to shift the blame to a White House.

Look, I realize it’s an election year. Abbott is running for re-election, there are rumors he has national ambitions, and there’s at least some evidence that the governor’s polling lead over former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is narrowing. The Texas Republican has an incentive to peddle red meat to his base and not worry too much about facts or propriety.

But that doesn’t make Abbott’s response any easier to defend.

After mass shootings, when Democrats recommend policies intended to prevent future deaths, Republicans routinely claim that Democrats are trying to “politicize” and “exploit” tragedies. Do those same Republicans have a problem with Abbott’s response to the deaths of 50 migrants?