DOJ sues Texas over Abbott order restricting transportation of migrants

Attorney General Merrick Garland made good on a threat to sue the state of Texas, filing a lawsuit Friday challenging an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott (R) that limits nongovernmental organizations from transporting migrants from the southern border.

The Wednesday order from Abbott effectively made it illegal to transport undocumented immigrants in a car, under the guise of preventing the pandemic's spread.

It bars anyone other than federal, state or local law enforcement from transporting migrants back to the border — something Garland warned in a Thursday letter would impede border officials' ability to contract with various groups, while civil rights groups said it would lead to racial profiling.

“As part of the execution of U.S. immigration laws, there are a variety of circumstances in which noncitizens must be transported between locations,” the Department of Justice wrote in its brief, noting that noncitizens “need transportation, frequently through privately arranged travel by bus or rail.”

The Justice Department argues Abbott’s order violates the supremacy clause of the Constitution and “directly interferes with the administration of federal immigration law,” asking the court to nullify it.

“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 wrote Thursday.

Abbott has sought to justify the order, arguing that transporting migrants poses a COVID-19 threat within Texas.

The Biden administration, however, has been swiftly expelling the majority of migrants under Title 42, a Trump-era policy allowing the government to turn away those who cross between posts of entry without proving the change to seek asylum.

Unaccompanied migrant children are exempted from Title 42, and may be transported between facilities before ultimately being sent to live with family members or sponsors within the U.S.

The order from Abbott directs the Texas Department of Public Safety to “stop any vehicle upon suspicion” of transporting migrants, and says the agency is authorized to “impound a vehicle” that was used to transport a group of migrants. 

Earlier this week he also ordered the National Guard to help law enforcement mitigate border crossings.

“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,” Abbott tweeted in a Friday statement before the suit was filed.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R) on Friday said that he "wont back down."

"I will defend Gov. Abbots order in court and we will work together to keep President Biden out of Texas's business."

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