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Gov. Abbott labels Biden’s border policy ‘neanderthal thinking’

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Thursday fired back at President Joe Biden for labeling his state’s move, as well as others’, to scrap its mask mandate “Neanderthal thinking,” calling a recent report that the Border Patrol released over 100 COVID-positive undocumented immigrants into the state.

“First, it obviously is not the type of thing that the president should be saying,” Abbott told “Fox & Friends” on Thursday morning. “But, second, he kind of said it on the worst day he could have, because the same day he said that in Texas, the Biden administration was releasing illegal immigrants into our communities who had COVID.”

“The Biden administration was exposing Texans to COVID,” he added. “That is a Neanderthal-type approach to dealing with the COVID situation.”

Abbott also blamed the Biden administration’s “lack of constraint of testing and quarantining people who come across the border illegally.”

“But, more importantly, with regard to the masks, the change in Texas really wasn’t all that much different from where we were before for a couple of reasons,” Abbott also argued. “First, we are still strongly advocating that every Texan follow the best practice. Where we are today is completely different from where we were this time last year when Texans and Americans didn’t know how to deal with this for an entire year. Texans have learned the best practice, and that is to wear a mask. And we still strongly recommend that people do wear a mask.”

In another Thursday interview, Abbott defended the decision to open up the state, telling CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that Texans already know that “the safe standard, among other things, is to wear a mask.”

“Do they really need the state to tell them what they already know for their own personal behavior?” Abbott said.

On Wednesday, the day after Abbott announced that the Lone Star State was “OPEN 100%,” Biden called his move and a similar one in Mississippi a “big mistake”.

“The last thing, the last thing you need is Neanderthal thinking that in the meantime everything is fine, take off your mask,” he told reporters in the Oval Office.

RELATED: Psaki defends Biden’s ‘neanderthal thinking’ remark

Notably, Abbott and the president spent hours together last Friday in Houston with no hint of animosity, The Dallas Morning News reported. Biden assessed Texas’ recovery from the previous week’s statewide power failures and toured a vaccination “super site” at NRG Park capable of delivering 6,000 shots per day, according to the newspaper.

RELATED: Gov. Abbott: ‘Texas is OPEN 100%’

Thursday afternoon, Abbott issued a statement expressing his frustration with the Biden administration’s immigration policy, blaming immigrants crossing the U.S.-Mexico border for spreading the coronavirus recently.

“The unconscionable act by the Biden Administration of releasing COVID-positive illegal immigrants in our state puts the lives of Texans and Americans at risk. Border security is strictly a federal responsibility. The federal government alone has the responsibility to test, screen and quarantine illegal immigrants crossing our border who may have COVID,” the governor said. “Instead of doing their job, the Biden Administration suggested it did not have the sufficient resources and, remarkably, asked Texas to assist them in aiding their illegal immigration program. Texas refused. We will not aid a program that makes our country a magnet for illegal immigration.”

On Wednesday, Felipe Romero, a spokesman for the border city of Brownsville, told Fox News that the Border Patrol is telling immigrants who tested positive to adhere to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines to quarantine and maintain social distance, but that the city doesn’t have the authority to prevent them from journeying elsewhere in the U.S.

At the U.S. Capitol, Texas Sen. John Cornyn (R), who also met with the president in Houston, defended Abbott against the criticism his order has received.

“President Biden has a lot of problems to take care of. […] And so I don’t think he’s got a lot to say about preaching to my state about how to handle this COVID-19 virus,” he said, adding that “the fact of the matter is, if you want to wear a mask you can still wear a mask.”

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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Report: Denver area migrants cost $340 million to shelter, educate

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A report by the free-market Common Sense Institute found the more than 42,000 migrants who have arrived in Denver over the last year and a half have cost the region as much as $340 million. The city of Denver, local school districts, and the region’s health-care system have spent between $216 million and $340 million combined to shelter, feed, clothe, and educate the migrants, and to provide them with emergency medical care.

National Review explains the report builds off a previous report from March that conservatively found that the migrants had cost the region at least $170 million. “Costs are never localized,” said DJ Summers, the institute’s research director. “They expand outward.”

Democratic leaders are being blamed for their welcoming posture toward immigrants generally, and their sanctuary-city policies, which curtail law enforcement’s ability to cooperate with federal immigration agents. Since late December 2022, at least 42,269 migrants — or “newcomers” as Denver leaders call them — have arrived in the city, adds National Review.

The Common Sense Institute report found that the migrant crisis has also hit local emergency rooms hard with extensive expenses. Since December 2022, migrants have made more than 16,000 visits to metro emergency departments. At an estimated cost of about $3,000 per visit, that has resulted in nearly $48 million in uncompensated care.

Summers said those costs are “stressing existing health care organizations,” but they also indirectly hit residents in their pocketbooks through increased insurance prices.

Metro school districts have endured the biggest financial hit — estimated between $98 million and $222 million — according to the Common Sense Institute report. The large range in costs is due to the difficulties researchers had identifying exactly how many new foreign students are tied to the migrant crisis.

The researchers found that since December 2022, 15,725 foreign students have enrolled in local schools. Of those, 6,929 have come from the five countries most closely identified with the migrant crisis — Venezuela, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

On average, it costs a little over $14,000 to educate a student for a year in a Denver-area public school, but Summers said migrant students likely cost more.

“They have transportation needs that are different, they have acculturation needs that are going to be different, language assistance needs that are going to be different,” he said. “Many of them might need to get up to speed in curriculum. They might need outside tutoring.”

Earlier this year, Colorado lawmakers approved $24 million in state funding to help school districts statewide plug budget holes related to the migrant students.

Summers said the updated Common Sense Institute tally is likely still missing some costs related to the ongoing migrant crisis.

“There are definitely additional costs. We just don’t have a great way to measure them just yet,” he said, noting legal fees, crime, and unreported business and nonprofit expenses.

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