NBC 5 Investigates obtained Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) documents through an open-records request.
They found that busing costs exceeded $1.6 million in April and May, and the total bill might be higher. Records also show that most expenses were security-related, with the state hiring security guards to ride each bus. That alone topped $1 million in the early weeks of the program, according to NBC5 Investigates.
On April 6, Gov. Greg Abbot, R-Texas, announced an “unprecedented” state response to a “migration crisis” that included busing migrants to the steps of the U.S. Capitol, blocking the Rio Grande and conducting extensive searches of commercial trucks coming from Mexico.
“To help local officials whose communities are being overwhelmed by hordes of illegal immigrants who are being dropped off by the Biden administration, Texas is providing charter buses to send these illegal immigrants … to Washington, D.C.,” Abbott said. “We are sending them to the United States Capitol where the Biden administration will be able to more immediately address the immediate needs of people they are allowing to come across our border.”
NBC 5 Investigates reported that the passenger logs that TDEM provided show that Texas transported 1,154 people in the early months of the program, and the approximate cost per passenger is at least $1,442.
Abbott’s office clarified on April 6 that the state would charter buses and flights to transport only those migrants who have been processed and released from federal custody to Washington, D.C. A news release also specifies that to “board a bus or flight, a migrant must volunteer to be transported and show documentation from DHS.”
TDEM Chief Nim Kidd said, at the time, the state had access to up to 900 buses for emergencies but was unsure how many buses were needed.
In comparing costs, NBC 5 Investigates found that plane tickets from the border towns of McAllen and Del Rio, Texas, to the nation’s capital cost between $200-$300, and first-class tickets were in the $800-900 range, significantly less than the cost of a seat on D.C.-bound buses.
But weeks later, Abbott said that the state had been “overwhelmed” with people from across the country wanting to help pay for the buses, prompting the state to launch an online website to accept donations.
“As soon as the announcement was made, we were overwhelmed with phone calls, with letters, with requests about people providing buses, people driving buses, people paying for buses,” Abbott said during a visit to McAllen on April 28. “And we got to thinking, if people all across the country are so eager to participate in this, then we should put a website link up and let them participate. And as soon as we did that, the donations have come in.”
According to NBC 5 Investigates’ report, published Wednesday, the website of Abbott’s office shows only about $112,000 raised, while the TDEM records show expenses exceeding $1.6 million so far.
In a statement to NBC 5 Investigates, Abbott spokeswoman Renae Eze said the governor had “received an outpouring of support” for the program, touting the private funds raised so far, adding that “the buses are having their intended effect of putting pressure on the feds.”
“The Biden administration has responded by slowing their dumping efforts-unintentionally providing relief to these overwhelmed border communities…,” Eze told NBC 5 investigates.
NBC 5 Investigates said Texas taxpayers are likely to get stuck paying for the cost of busing migrants to Wahington, D.C.