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What other newspapers are saying: Texas governor should release border documents

What is he trying to hide?

That was our first thought when we learned that Gov. Greg Abbott had refused a media request to disclose correspondence critical of his decision to order extra inspections on commercial trucks entering the U.S. from Mexico.

Widely lambasted, the April truck inspections led to backups at the border stretching for miles, destroying$240 million worth of produce and delaying delivery of car parts, electronics and other goods. Abbott’s inspections put more strain on an already crippled U.S. supply chain and experts said the debacle cost the Texas economy $4 billion in lost gross domestic product.

Amid the fiasco, state business leaders and lawmakers and the governors of two Mexican states wrote Abbott letters that he now refuses to release, though some of that correspondence has already been made public.

Texas taxpayers have every right to know what drove Abbott’s decision, how it harmed the flow of commerce and how his administration responded when it became clear the secondary inspections created a self-inflicted disaster. Abbott ended the inspections days later.

Abbott ordered the inspections on April 8, though the federal government already conducts similar inspections on trucks entering Texas from Mexico.

The governor’s legal department told USA Today Network reporter John Moritz that many of the documents he requested fall outside the purview of state open government laws for reasons ranging from attorney-client privilege to putting the state at risk of terrorism to interfering with law enforcement.

It’s also possible that these documents might cast Abbott’s decision in an even worse light. If that’s the case, the governor still has an obligation to come clean about the fallout from his short-lived policy, which many Texans, including this editorial board, have criticized as an ineffective political stunt. Inspecting commercial trucks a second time, when the federal government already does that, cost the economy billions but did not produce a single arrest of unauthorized immigrants or seizure of illegal drugs or weapons.

Abbott has asked the Texas Attorney General to issue an opinion on the matter. We urge him to be transparent instead of hiding behind exceptions in the Texas Public Information Act.

“Clearly, more of the requested documents should have been released from the start,” Kelly Shannon, executive director of the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas, told our board. “Public information must be provided promptly and without delay.”

As he campaigns for reelection, Abbott has increasingly sought to show he’s tough on border issues.

Abbott recently shifted an additional $495 million from other state agencies, including the Health and Human Services Commission and the Texas Department of Public Safety, to pay for Operation Lone Star, which includes the deployment of thousands of Texas National Guard troops to the border. The state has already allocated about $3.9 billion for the initiative.

Enforcing immigration law and protecting the U.S.-Mexico border are federal responsibilities already costing the U.S. government billions. When Greg Abbott spends billions more in Texas taxpayers’ money for political posturing and border policing they didn’t ask for, Texans deserve a full accounting permissible under state freedom of information laws.

We urge Gov. Abbott to help restore faith in government by releasing documents related to his secondary truck inspections, and to be fully transparent about Operation Lone Star.

— Austin American-Statesman

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