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AG Merrick Garland threatens legal action if Texas Gov. Abbott does not rescind executive order on migrant transportation
Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

AG Merrick Garland threatens legal action if Texas Gov. Abbott does not rescind executive order on migrant transportation

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday threatened legal action if Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) does not rescind an executive order that Garland characterized as "both dangerous and unlawful."

Abbott issued an executive order Wednesday that declared in part: "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 [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] for crossing the border illegally or who would have been subject to expulsion under the Title 42 order."

The GOP governor explained that the move is meant to decrease the risk of coronavirus exposure in the state.

"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, according to a news release about the order. "This Executive Order will reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities."

But in a letter to Abbott on Thursday, Garland asserted that there were various issues with the governor's order, including that it would place people's health and safety at risk. " The Order is both dangerous and unlawful," he wrote.

"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. "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 non­ governmental partners to ensure that released individuals are transported for appropriate COVID-19 testing to address public health concerns.

"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," Garland said.

Garland said that if Abbott does not rescind the order, the government plans to employ every appropriate legal remedy to make certain that the Lone Star State "does not interfere with the functions of the federal govern­ment."

In a statement responding to Garland's letter, Abbott blamed the Biden administration for the crisis along the nation's southern border and said that he will take all actions in line with the law to carry out his duty to defend the the health and safety of Texans.

"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 said. "By choosing not to enforce immigration laws, removing sound policies like the Remain in Mexico program, and failing to make the most robust use of Title 42 authorities, this Administration has directly caused the unprecedented crisis Texas is facing. And it is increasingly a matter of grave public-health concern as unlawful migrants enter from countries with lower vaccination rates than the United States."

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