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Leading Texas Republican pushes back against ‘invasion’ rhetoric to describe the border

Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas pulled himself out of contention for FBI director Tuesday.
Jacquelyn Martin
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn called recent record setting migrant crossings a “humanitarian, public safety and public health crisis" and said the word "invasion" isn't the best term.

Countering other state GOP leaders, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn instead called recent record setting migrant crossings a “humanitarian, public safety and public health crisis.”

A leading Republican in Texas said he doesn’t think that the increase in migrant crossings on the southern border should be called an “invasion,” a controversial description that has been embraced by fellow GOP members including Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

“I realize different people have used different terms to describe what’s happening at the border,” said U.S. Sen. John Cornyn during a press call Thursday. “I would prefer to call it a humanitarian, public safety and public health crisis. I think the word ‘invasion’ brings up some other connotations which I don’t think really apply here.”

The term was used by the man accused of killing 23 people at a Walmart in 2019 in El Paso in what authorities called a racially motivated attack. The alleged gunman posted a manifesto on social media in which he described a “Hispanic invasion of Texas.”

Any caution state leaders exercised when describing the border in the aftermath of the shooting is long gone, as Abbott and Paxton have used the term repeatedly in the previous months.

In November Abbott told the Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Military Department “to defend Texas against what amounts to an invasion of America's southern border.” The instructions were part of Abbott’s controversial Operation Lone Star, a state-led effort that has deployed police and national guard units to the border.

Abbott also told county judges that month he invoked clauses of the U.S. and Texas constitutions to “fight back against the invasion at our border.”

On Wednesday, Paxton used the term when he announced his office was investigating the charitable arm of the Texas Bar Association for possibly aiding undocumented immigrants.

“Not only has this Administration abdicated its duty to secure the border, but it has also actively encouraged an illegal invasion into the United States,” said Paxton. “What’s more, it seems some Texas groups may be facilitating the invasion. I won’t tolerate it.”

Democrats have criticized rhetoric they say could lead to more violence on the border. In August, after the third anniversary of the shooting, U.S. Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, told the El Paso Times she often reminds her colleagues about the consequences of using charged rhetoric.

“You have politicians and political leaders who fan the flames of hate instead of trying to create communities and a country that embraces diversity and celebrates it," Escobar told the publication.

Cornyn acknowledged the controversy surrounding the term on Thursday but didn’t hesitate to slam President Biden on what the senator called the president’s do-nothing policies. He said he preferred to debate solutions about how to solve the migrant crisis and not get stuck on rhetoric.

“I hate for us to get too bogged down in semantics when we need to solve the problem,” he said. “My biggest concerns is the Biden administration doesn’t care and has not been willing to lift a finger to deal with it.”

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Got a tip? Email Julián Aguilar at can follow Julián on Twitter @nachoaguilar.