Texas Governor Greg Abbott at a press conference at the Capitol on June 8, 2021 in Austin, Texas.(Montinique Monroe/Getty Images)
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott knows who the real culprit is in America’s spiraling baby formula shortage: migrant infants.
The shortage has escalated in recent months, after several powdered infant formulas manufactured by Abbott Nutrition (no relation) at a factory in Michigan were recalled in February, after infants in three states contracted bacterial infections and two babies died. Forty percent of baby formula is currently out of stock and more than half of states are struggling with supply, CNN reported earlier this week.
But on Thursday, Abbott, a Republican who’s running for for a third term this year, issued a haughty statement slamming the Biden administration. Not for failing to tackle the crisis before now – though the shortage has been ongoing for months and the White House still doesn’t have a clear plan to deal with it – but for following a decades-old legal obligation to provide food and formula to migrant children in federal custody.
“Children are our most vulnerable, precious Texans and deserve to be put first. Yet, President Biden has turned a blind eye to parents across America who are facing the nightmare of a nationwide baby formula shortage,” Abbott said in a statement along with Brandon Judd of the National Border Patrol Council, which is the labor union for border cops.
“While mothers and fathers stare at empty grocery store shelves in a panic, the Biden Administration is happy to provide baby formula to illegal immigrants coming across our southern border.”
“This is yet another one in a long line of reckless, out-of-touch priorities from the Biden Administration when it comes to securing our border and protecting Americans,” Abbott, who has not ruled out a run for president in 2024, added. “Our children deserve a president who puts their needs and survival first — not one who gives critical supplies to illegal immigrants before the very people he took an oath to serve.”
Abbott’s angry statement came after Florida Republican Rep. Kat Cammack posted a video to Facebook Wednesday saying a Border Patrol agent complained to her about the food meant for migrant children. “They’re shipping pallets, pallets of baby formula to the border,” Cammack, who later posted a photo to Twitter purportedly showing the food.
Cammack clarified during the video that “it is not the children’s fault at all” and said her “heart breaks for these children,” after complaining that “illegals”—i.e., migrant parents and their children—were getting the food.
“Baby formula should go to Americans before illegals,” Republican Rep. Troy Nehls of Texas said. “This should not have to be said.”
But the Biden administration—which left in place many of the hawkish immigration policies of the Trump era—is complying with the Flores settlement agreement, a 25-year-old contractual obligation for the federal government to provide adequate treatment for migrant kids, as the Washington Post reported Thursday.
The settlement mandates that migrant children in detention centers must be provided with “drinking water and food as appropriate,” and the CBP’s 2015 national standards for detentions explicitly say that such food must be “appropriate for at-risk detainees’ age and capabilities (such as formula and baby food).”
The Department of Homeland Security did not immediately respond to a request for comment from VICE News Friday, but told the Washington Post that “ensuring migrants, including children and infants, in our custody have their basic needs met is in line with this Administration’s commitment to ensuring safe, orderly, and humane processes at our border.”
Abbott’s attack over baby formula is part of a larger trend attacking migrant families. After last week’s leak of the Supreme Court draft opinion which would overturn Roe v. Wade excited conservatives about the possibility of undoing other decisions they view as liberal, Abbott indicated he would challenge a 1982 Supreme Court decision requiring states to provide an education to migrant families.
Democrats including Texas U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro slammed Abbott’s response to the formula shortage. “As the father of a newborn, I’m struck by Greg Abbott’s callous inhumanity,” Castro said.
“Governor, the government provides baby formula because these babies are being held in government custody and unable to shop HEB or Walmart for formula. All you do is divide people with fear.”
“Greg Abbott has never been pro-life,” the Texas Democratic Party tweeted.
Want the best of VICE News straight to your inbox? Sign up here.