Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott accused the Biden administration Thursday of “jeopardizing the health and safety of Texans on a daily basis” after Attorney General Merrick Garland threatened a lawsuit over a new order allowing state troopers to stop and turn around vehicles suspected of carrying illegal immigrants.
In a letter to Abbott, Garland claimed the governor’s order was “dangerous” as well as “contrary to federal law and cannot be enforced.” The attorney general also claimed the order was unconstitutional, as it “interferes with [federal] immigration enforcement” and obstructs the “release of individuals and the ability of those individuals to comply with federal immigration law.”
Garland concluded the letter by declaring that if Abbott did not rescind his order, he would “pursue all appropriate legal remedies to ensure that Texas does not interfere with the functions of the federal government.”
“It is clear that the Biden Administration fundamentally misunderstands what is truly happening at the Texas-Mexico border,” Abbott shot back in a statement of his own Thursday. “The current crisis at our southern border, including the overcrowding of immigration facilities and the devastating spread of COVID-19 that the influx of non-citizens is causing, is entirely the creation of the Biden Administration and its failed immigration policies.”
The order, enacted Wednesday, prohibits anyone except federal, state and local law enforcement officials from transporting illegal immigrants detained attempting to cross the US-Mexico border. It also authorizes the stoppage of any vehicle “on reasonable suspicion” that it is violating the order. If a violation is confirmed, troopers are ordered to reroute the vehicle to its point of origin or a border crossing checkpoint or impound the vehicle if the driver refuses to be rerouted.
“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 said in a statement accompanying the order. “This Executive Order will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities.”
Critics say Abbott’s order invites racial profiling by members of law enforcement.
“This is clear-cut militarization of Texas against individuals, children, and families by an out-of-control governor who thinks he has unilateral power to do whatever he wants and violate the civil rights of people based solely on appearance or suspicion,” League of United Latin American citizens President Domingo Garcia said in a statement. “Racial profiling on steroids is a dangerous and unprecedented act that blatantly crosses the line and should concern all persons who value their freedom.”
Abbott has emerged as one of the GOP’s strongest critics of the Biden administration’s immigration policy. Last month, he authorized Texas state troopers to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges and ordered state child-care centers to pull the licenses of federal facilities housing migrant children.
Most notably, Abbott announced that he had set aside $250 million as a “down payment” on construction of a border wall.
“It would be of some solace if the federal government were conducting appropriate COVID-19 testing and other mitigation strategies, but to the contrary, we hear too many reports of the federal government recklessly failing to do so and instead admitting into the United States — and Texas — migrants from over 150 countries, many of whom are testing positive for COVID-19,” the governor claimed Thursday.
“[T]hese irresponsible policies and actions by the Biden Administration are endangering the lives of many Americans as well as the unlawful immigrants themselves,” Abbott concluded. “I will take every available step consistent with the law to fulfill my duty to protect the health and safety of all Texans.”