Abbott’s stance is grounded in the belief that there are no legal barriers to instructing the Texas National Guard to lay more razor wire. While the National Guard is under the ultimate command of the US President, it typically operates under state governors’ orders, except in specific circumstances where federal control is explicitly assumed.
Abbott’s Operation Lone Star, a publicly funded initiative to stem irregular migration, has been a focal point of this controversy. Meanwhile, discussions in Washington about tightening border restrictions continue, with concerns about the implications on the right to seek asylum, a right enshrined in US immigration laws.
Driving the news
Shelby Park in Eagle Pass stands at the heart of the intensifying dispute between Texas authorities and the federal government, emerging as a critical point for unauthorized US entries from Mexico. This month witnessed Texas National Guard troops taking control of the park, rebuffing federal immigration officials despite requests from the US government.
While immigration enforcement is generally under federal jurisdiction, Governor Abbott remains committed to advancing new immigration policies, asserting a “constitutional right to self-defense.” This stance comes even after the US Supreme Court authorized federal agents to dismantle the razor wire installed by Texas along the Mexico border, including within Shelby Park.
Despite the Supreme Court’s ruling, Texas has proceeded to lay additional razor wire in Eagle Pass, an action not explicitly forbidden by the court’s decision. The Biden administration contends that this wiring hampers federal agents’ ability to safely and effectively execute their responsibilities.
Abbott’s border security strategy also features a floating barrier in the Rio Grande near Eagle Pass, a move that has met with opposition from federal authorities.
In a show of support, Florida has dispatched over 1,000 guard members, troopers, and other personnel to the Texas border since last May, as reported by the Florida Division of Emergency Management.
A coalition of at least a dozen Republican governors, including those from Arkansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Virginia, and West Virginia, have contributed forces ranging from several dozen to over a hundred guard members.
These recent deployments are in aid of Abbott’s border initiative, Operation Lone Star, initiated shortly after President Joe Biden assumed office.
Abbott has accused President Biden of misusing taxpayer funds to weaken border security, asserting that the federal government has failed in its constitutional duty to enforce laws, leading to unprecedented levels of illegal immigration.
‘Civil war’ in Texas
Meanwhile, Chinese media is using this governor vs President fight to spread misinformation on ‘civil war’ in Texas by using selective and distorted sources, sensationalist headlines, and false claims to portray the state as being in a state of rebellion and chaos against the US federal government. Here are some of the methods and motives behind this misinformation campaign:
Chinese media outlets, especially those affiliated with the state or the ruling Communist Party, have a history of exploiting the internal divisions and conflicts in the US to undermine its credibility and legitimacy, and to promote China’s own image and interests. For example, Chinese media have frequently criticized the US for its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, the racial justice protests, the 2020 presidential election, and the January 2021 Capitol riot, accusing it of hypocrisy, incompetence, and decline.
Chinese media have also been keen to highlight the tensions and disputes between Texas and the Biden administration over the issue of illegal immigration. Chinese media have exaggerated and distorted the situation in Texas, using misleading and inflammatory language and imagery to suggest that the state is on the verge of secession and war.
As per a BBC report, Chinese social media platforms are buzzing with claims that governor Abbott is gearing up for a confrontation with federal authorities. The hashtag #TexasDeclaresAStateOfWar has gained significant traction on Sina Weibo, a popular social network in China, with some posts coming from users with millions of followers.
Wenhao, a journalist from Voice of America specializing in Chinese online misinformation, highlighted on X (formerly Twitter) that the most talked-about US-related topic on Chinese internet recently is the alleged declaration of war by the Texas governor against the federal government, a claim that does not reflect reality.
Despite Weibo’s efforts to limit the spread of such misinformation by adding disclaimers to posts with the hashtag #TexasDeclaresAStateOfWar, numerous posts on the topic are still circulating on the platform, which boasts over 600 million monthly active users, the BBC report said.
Images and videos are being shared among users, further fueling the narrative. These include pictures of the Texas Military Department flying a flag with the slogan “Come and Take It,” suggesting a call for independence. Additionally, old footage from Fox News showing vigilante groups in camouflage “defending the border” and videos from Chile, wrongly attributed to Texas, are also being circulated, the BBC report added.
Some users are drawing parallels between Texas and Ukraine, noting the similar landmass of the two regions and suggesting that Texas might experience a situation akin to the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia.
The dissemination of such messages in Chinese media is making the notion of a civil war within the United States more plausible. Chinese state media have been consistently implying that political divisions in the US have reached a critical point, potentially leading to internal strife. This narrative has been prevalent since the Capitol Hill riot in January 2021.
While access to foreign media is largely restricted in China, selected content from international sources is often used to suggest deep-seated divisions within the US. For instance, Chinese social media users recently had access to reports about Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis deploying up to 1,000 National Guard members to Texas.
China often publishes such reports as a counter-narrative to criticism from Western governments regarding China’s policies in Xinjiang, Hong Kong, or Taiwan. The underlying message is to urge these governments to focus on their own internal issues rather than critiquing China’s governance, the report said.
(With inputs from agencies)