Mexican president reignites battle with Texas Gov Abbott with challenge over immigration law

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador this week reignited his ongoing feud with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over U.S. border security when he threatened to challenge the Lone Star State’s new immigration law.

The new legislation, signed by Abbott on Monday, allows law enforcement to arrest illegal immigrants who would then face the choice to leave the U.S. or be prosecuted on misdemeanor charges for illegal entry.

Migrants who don’t comply could face arrest again and more serious felony charges. Abbott said the bill aims to stop a “tidal wave” of illegal immigration.

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But Lopez Obrador reacted furiously to the new law, and according to Reuters, he said the foreign ministry is already working on a legal challenge to the law.

He also accused Abbott of attempting to win political popularity with the move but said it would backfire because there are “a lot of Mexicans” in Texas.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

“The Texas governor acts that way because he wants to be the Republican vice presidential candidate and wants to win popularity with these measures,” Lopez Obrador said. “He’s not going to win anything. On the contrary, he is going to lose support because there are a lot of Mexicans in Texas, a lot of migrants.”

It’s the latest feud between Mexico and Texas and other Republicans over the migrant crisis. The Mexican Foreign Ministry filed a complaint against Texas this year over the construction of buoys set up by the state in the Rio Grande. It had also sought to link the deaths of two migrants in the river to the buoys.

“We reiterate the position of the Government of Mexico that the placement of wire buoys by the Texas authorities is a violation of our sovereignty,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “We express our concern about the impact on the human rights and personal safety of migrants that these state policies will have, which run counter to the close collaboration between our country and the federal government of the United States.”

But Abbott’s office pushed back, arguing that information pointed to the drownings occurring before they were near the barriers and that drownings were common even before the barrier was installed.

“This is a result of the reckless open border policies of President Biden and President Lopez Obrador. In fact, before Texas deployed barriers, the United Nations declared the U.S.-Mexico border the deadliest land crossing in the world,” an Abbott spokesperson said. “If President Biden and President Lopez Obrador truly cared about human life, they would do their jobs and secure the border.”

In July, Lopez Obrador urged Hispanics not to vote for Abbott in response to the buoys.

Buoys in Rio Grande River in Eagle Pass, Texas

Migrants rest near buoys on the U.S. side of the Rio Grande in Eagle Pass, Texas, on July 20, 2023. (Omar Ornelas.USA Today Network)

“We don’t have to do much, just tell our compatriots not to vote for the governor of Texas or for lawmakers of the Republican Party who support these measures,” he said.

He first targeted Abbott in the summer of 2022 and said that Mexico is “going to ask our countrymen there that they don’t vote for that candidate or party.”

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Obrador press conference

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Reuters/Raquel Cunha)

Earlier this year, he announced an “information campaign” against Republicans after they pushed for more action – including military action against cartels – in response to the U.S. fentanyl crisis.

“Starting today we are going to start an information campaign for Mexicans who live and work in the United States and for all Hispanics to inform them of what we are doing in Mexico and how this initiative by the Republicans, in addition to being irresponsible, is an offense against the people of Mexico, a lack of respect for our independence, our sovereignty,” he said in March.

“And if they do not change their attitude and think that they are going to use Mexico for their propaganda, electoral and political purposes, we are going to call for them not to vote for that party because it is interventionist, inhumane, hypocritical and corrupt,” Lopez Obrador said, later adding that Mexico would be insisting that “not one vote” goes to Republicans from Mexicans and Hispanics.

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He has also taken aim at Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis who, unlike Abbott, is running for presidential in 2024.

“I hope the Hispanics of Florida wake up and don’t give him any votes, that they don’t vote for those who persecute migrants, those who don’t respect migrants,” Lopez Obrador said in June.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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