(USA Features) U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland has threatened to file suit against the state of Texas alleging that an executive order issued by GOP Gov. Greg Abbott restricting the transport of migrants who have been detained by federal border enforcement agents.
The order, issued earlier this week, was issued largely in response to the state’s interest in stopping the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19, which Texas health and law enforcement officials say is being brought into the Lone Star state by illegal aliens.
“The dramatic rise in unlawful border crossings has also led to a dramatic rise in COVID-19 cases among unlawful migrants who have made their way into our state, and we must do more to protect Texans from this virus and reduce the burden on our communities,” Abbott noted in a statement.
“This executive order will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities,” he added.
But Garland claimed in a statement that Abbott’s order violates federal law “in numerous respects” and vowed to file legal action against it if Abbott did not rescind it immediately.
“The Order would jeopardize the health and safety of noncitizens in federal government custody, federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and our communities,” Garland said in a letter to Abbott’s administration.
“Among other harms, the Order would exacerbate and prolong overcrowding in facilities and shelters and obstruct the federal government’s arrangements with state, local, and nongovernmental partners to ensure that released individuals are transported for appropriate COVID-19 testing to address public health concerns,” the letter says, according to local reports.
“Additionally, because federal law requires individuals processed for release to appear before immigration courts or report to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement offices throughout the country, the Order directly interferes with the implementation of federal immigration law,” the letter adds.
Abbott fired back that the Biden administration was failing to adequately enforce immigration laws in a way that put Texans at risk.
“[T]he Biden Administration is jeopardizing the health and safety of Texans on a daily basis by refusing to follow the law,” Abbott responded, according to a letter posted on Twitter.
“And it’s not just Texans; these irresponsible policies and actions by the Biden Administration are endangering the lives of many Americans as well as the unlawful immigrants themselves,” he added.
“I will take every available step consistent with the law to fulfill my duty to protect the health and safety of all Texans.”
The governor’s order bars anyone other than federal, state, or local officials from transporting migrants who have been detained by Customs and Border Protection agents after crossing illegally into Texas and are subject to expulsion under federal Title 42.
“The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is directed to stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion of a violation [of the order] and to reroute such a vehicle back to its point of origin or a port of entry if a violation is confirmed,” Abbott’s order says.
It also authorized the DPS to impound any vehicles that refuse to comply with rerouting orders.
The new executive order follows one issued a day earlier by Abbott authorizing the Texas National Guard to help state law enforcement authorities make arrests of illegal aliens as related to the ongoing border crisis.