The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, asks the court to stop enforcement of Abbott’s order banning the ground transportation of “migrants who have been detained… for crossing the border illegally or who would have been subject to expulsion.”
Signed Wednesday, Abbott’s order instructed the Texas Department of Public Safety “to stop any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion” that it crossed the border illegally.
The Department of Justice claims the order has harmed U.S. government immigration efforts and could worsen the spread of the coronavirus.
“The executive order violates the Supremacy Clause and causes injury to the United States and to individuals whom the United States is charged to protect, jeopardizing the health and safety of noncitizens in federal custody, risking the safety of federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in our communities,” the complaint reads.
“The executive order obstructs the Federal Government’s arrangements with nongovernmental partners and directly interferes with the administration of federal immigration law.”
Legally, the complaint argues that Abbott’s order violates the “Supremacy Clause” of the U.S. Constitution.
It also says Abbott’s order stops certain necessary migrant transportation scenarios, such as the transferral of unaccompanied children between government facilities.
Notably, Abbott’s order makes an exception for law-enforcement agents at all tiers of government.
“No person, other than a federal, state, or local law-enforcement official, shall provide ground transportation to a group of migrants who have been detained by CBP for crossing the border illegally or who would have been subject to expulsion under the Title 42 order,” Abbott’s order reads.
However, Abbott’s order does not make an exception for government contractors, who transport an appreciable number of illegal aliens according to the Department of Justice brief.
Counter to the Justice Department’s claims, Abbott justified his order as a needed measure not only to curb illegal immigration but primarily to slow the spread of COVID-19.
“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 press release announcing the order.
“This Executive Order will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities.”
Nonetheless, the Department of Justice argues in its complaint that the order will create overcrowding in facilities housing illegal aliens, heightening COVID-19 infections in turn.
The lawsuit follows an ongoing spat between Abbott and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton weighed in immediately, blaming the White House for a “threat to… public health” arising from the border.
“Until the Biden Administration abandoned its duty to secure the border, Texans faced little threat to their public health from wave upon wave of illegal immigration at our southern border,” Attorney General Ken Paxton responded in a statement.
“It’s specifically because of this abdication that I sued this Administration on behalf of the State of Texas—one of my five border-related lawsuits. To help with this problem, Governor Abbott released a much-needed (and perfectly legal) Executive Order that keeps Texas safe, secure, and healthy.”
“Mere moments ago, the Feds sued Texas, demanding the Order be thrown out. Not on my watch! Texas won’t back down. I will defend Governor Abbott’s order in court and we will work together to keep President Biden out of Texas’s business.”
Both Abbott and Paxton have made fighting the federal government a point of pride during their respective stints as the state’s top law enforcement officer. Abbott, Paxton’s predecessor, claimed to have sued the Obama administration more than anyone else in history — and Paxton has followed a similar path during Joe Biden’s presidency.
The legal fights have often centered on alleged federal overreach, and this episode is no different.
Currently, the U.S., with Texas at its epicenter, is facing a historic spike in border crossings with nearly 190,000 illegal crossing apprehensions in June.
Local law enforcement said this week that the U.S. border patrol was releasing illegal immigrants testing positive for COVID-19.
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