The Justice Department sued the state of Texas on Friday over Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order restricting the transportation of migrants.
The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Texas, asks the court to declare the governor’s order invalid, saying it “causes injury” to people the federal government “is charged to protect, jeopardizing the health and safety” of migrants in federal custody.
Abbott’s executive order, issued Wednesday under the guise of concerns about COVID-19, prohibits anyone who isn’t a “federal, state, or local law-enforcement official” from transporting migrants released from federal custody. It also gives the state authority to stop and seize private vehicles suspected of carrying migrants.
The Biden administration’s lawsuit notes that the federal government often uses contractors who may not be law enforcement officials to transport migrants, including unaccompanied children, from Border Patrol to Health and Human Services facilities or to nonprofits where children stay until they can be reunified with family or other sponsors pending immigration proceedings.
And migrants released by Border Patrol often use privately arranged transportation like buses or trains to get to where they’ll be staying as their cases move through immigration courts, the suit notes, as well as to get to ICE appointments or court appearances, as they must by law.
In a letter Thursday, U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland called Texas’ order “dangerous and unlawful.” Immigration rights advocates slammed it as unconstitutional and xenophobic.
On Friday, the Justice Department also filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order, asking the judge to put the executive order on hold while the suit moves through the courts.
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