Kentucky Republicans lining up with Texas governor in border fight with Biden

By: - January 29, 2024 8:15 pm

Kentucky Attorney General Russell Coleman said on Monday that “Kentucky has become a border state, and our children are at risk.” (Kentucky Lantern photo by Mathew Mueller)

FRANKFORT — The controversy over control of the U.S. border has invaded the Kentucky Capitol as Attorney General Russell Coleman and other Republicans voice solidarity with Texas Gov. Greg Abbott in his showdown with the Biden administration. 

Coleman joined 25 other Republican attorneys general on Monday in sending a letter to President Joe Biden similar to one sent earlier by Republican governors.

The attorneys general say in their letter that the Biden administration “​​is doing more than impeding Texas’s attempts to enforce the law” and has helped “individuals complete their illegal entry into the United States.” Like Abbott, Coleman and the Republican AGs characterize the wave of asylum seekers as an “invasion.”

Meanwhile, a Kentucky House committee will hold a special meeting Tuesday to consider a resolution — one of several filed by lawmakers — urging Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear to support Abbott’s efforts in “securing the Texas border.” Abbott has blocked U.S. Border Patrol access to part of the border with Mexico. 

Republican criticism of Biden’s border policies is intensifying as Republicans in the U.S. Senate say they are nearing a deal with the administration that links immigration reform and heightened border security with aid to Ukraine. Former President Donald Trump is opposing the negotiations. Observes say Trump, the frontrunner for the GOP presidential nomination, wants to preserve immigration as a campaign issue against Biden.

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell on X, offering Texas razor wire.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, an ardent supporter of continued support for Ukraine in its war with Russia, acknowledged last week in a closed door meeting of Senate Republicans the difficulty of passing an immigration deal over Trump’s opposition. But Republican supporters of the deal have vowed to keep negotiating, saying the border security agreement would be stronger than any deal Republicans can realistically expect from Congress in the future. 

GOP Sen. James Lankford, one of the immigration deal’s lead negotiators, was denounced over the weekend by some Oklahoma Republicans in an action that has divided his state’s party. The U.S. House is moving to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. 

Coleman, a former McConnell staffer, last week issued a statement on social media saying Kentucky stands with Texas in its “right to self defense on the Southern Border.” 

After Coleman’s statement online, three other Republicans in the executive branch — Secretary of State Michael Adams, Treasurer Mark Metcalf and Agriculture Commissioner Jonathan Shell — expressed support for Texas. 

In an apparent response, Beshear, from his personal account on X, formerly Twitter, posted a photo of a groundbreaking ceremony and said: “While others are playing politics, we’ve been out creating jobs for Kentucky.” Beshear then said that Kentucky’s National Guard “has been serving at our southern border for years.”

“They also have been deployed in the Middle East and in Europe,” Beshear added. “We continue to support our Guard in all they do.”

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 ruling on Jan. 22, allowing U.S. Border Patrol agents to remove razor wire set up under Abbott’s orders. 

Gov. Andy Beshear, social media post, Jan. 26.

Texas authorities on Jan. 10 had fenced off a 2.5-mile area with razor wire and effectively blocked the U.S. Border Patrol from a stretch of border in Eagle Pass used by migrants to cross into this country from Mexico.

Two days later, an immigrant woman and two children drowned while trying to cross the Rio Grande at Eagle Pass. When U.S. Border Patrol agents went to investigate the reported drownings they were barred from the area by Texas National Guard members. Texas officials, including Abbott and Attorney General Ken Paxton, are still refusing to open the area to federal Border Patrol agents. 

By asserting that the federal government under Biden “has broken the compact with the states,” Abbott and GOP attorneys general are invoking the “nullification” doctrine that Southern states used to justify seceding from the United States in 1861 and igniting the Civil War. 

Coleman said in a public statement Monday: “President Biden’s failed open border policy gives drug cartels and criminals a free pass to pour their deadly poison into our country. As a result, Kentucky has become a border state, and our children are at risk. The crisis at the southern border demands a strong response, and I am proud to stand with Governor Abbott in defending the people of Texas.” 

In an additional statement to the Lantern, Coleman reiterated his criticism of Biden. “I don’t know what might pass this Congress, but I do know that President Biden can’t keep sitting on his hands and ignoring the crisis at our border.”

Frankfort is almost 1,300 miles from Eagle Pass, Texas, according to Google.

House Resolution 57, sponsored by Rep. Richard Heath, R-Mayfield, will be heard in a special-called meeting of the House State Government Committee Tuesday. Mirror legislation, Senate Concurrent Resolution 111, is sponsored by Sen. Johnnie Turner, R-Harlan. 

Heath told the Kentucky Lantern he was unaware of the Senate resolution after he filed his. He added that he hoped Beshear “would see the need for standing with Texas.”

Rep. Savannah Maddox, R-Dry Ridge, also filed House Resolution 63 Monday to show “Kentucky’s support for Texas’ fight against Joe Biden’s Open Borders.”  Maddox’s resolution calls on Biden to “bring home American National Guardsmen and women from undeclared wars so that they may be committed to defending the United States’ southern border.”

Immigration reform by Congress has long been a priority for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, according to its website which says: “In Kentucky, policymakers are working to build a strong economic climate through tax reform and education investments that will help grow our workforce, but Congress must take action to ensure Kentucky employers have full access to a global talent pool.

“Specific actions should include fixing America’s broken worker visa program, increasing the allotment of employment-based green cards, and providing legal certainty for DACA recipients and long-term beneficiaries of the Temporary Protected Status program. Congress should pursue these priorities while simultaneously working to secure the border.” 

Liam Niemeyer contributed to this report. 


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McKenna Horsley
McKenna Horsley

McKenna Horsley covers state politics for the Kentucky Lantern. She previously worked for newspapers in Huntington, West Virginia, and Frankfort, Kentucky. She is from northeastern Kentucky.