Fact checking Abbott’s tweet on South African border crossings

Texas governor uses omicron variant travel restrictions to hammer Biden administration on immigration

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a news conference along the Rio Grande, Tuesday, Sept. 21, 2021, in Del Rio, Texas. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

SAN ANTONIO – As global concerns rise over the omicron variant of COVID-19, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott on Sunday took aim at President Joe Biden’s immigration policies.

Multiple countries, including the United States, restricted travel from South Africa and seven other African nations where the variant has been most prevalent. Abbott said the policy move amounts to “pure politics and hypocrisy” citing apprehensions at the border.

“Immigrants have recently been apprehended crossing our border illegally from South Africa,” Abbott wrote on Twitter. “Biden is doing nothing to stop immigrants from South African entering illegally.”

Though South African nationals have been arrested crossing the United States border in past years, a KSAT analysis showed how rarely it has occurred.

According to border apprehension numbers provided by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, a total of 62 South African nationals were arrested while crossing the southwest border between 2007 and 2020, making up 0.0009% of the 6,823,315 border apprehensions over that time period.

Because the number of South African nationals crossing the border is so minuscule, the department does not include the nation in monthly updates on its website, so it is unclear how recently anyone from South Africa has been arrested at the border during fiscal year 2021. In fiscal year 2020, six such apprehensions were reported.

Abbott has continued to hammer the Biden administration on immigration amid an influx in migrant crossings.

Though October’s border crossing numbers represented a third consecutive monthly decrease, the figures were still much higher than previous years.

In response, Abbott launched Operation Lone Star, stepping up the state’s enforcement efforts on border crossings.

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About the Author:

Fares Sabawi has been a journalist in San Antonio for four years. He has covered several topics, but specializes in crime, courts, open records and data visualization.