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DOJ sues the Lone Star State and Gov. Abbott, challenging executive order on migrant transportation

Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool/Getty Images

The Justice Department has targeted the state of Texas and its Republican governor with a law suit challenging a recently issued executive order that pertains to the transportation of migrants.

Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order Wednesday which 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 governor's executive order instructs the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to halt vehicles if there is reasonable suspicion of a breach of the policy, "and to reroute such a vehicle back to its point of origin or a port of entry if a violation is confirmed." The order also declares that DPS has authorization to impound vehicles that transport migrants in breach of the policy as well as authorization to impound vehicles that decline to be rerouted.

In a Thursday letter to Abbott, Attorney General Merrick Garland decried the governor's executive order as "both dangerous and unlawful," and called for him to rescind it immediately. Garland warned that if Abbott did not rescind the order, the government would take every appropriate legal remedy to make certain that the Lone Star State "does not interfere with the functions of the federal government."

In a Friday letter responding to the U.S. attorney general, Abbott wrote, "It is clear from the arguments in your letter that the State of Texas and the federal government face a constitutional crisis."

The government's lawsuit calls for the court to declare Abbott's order invalid and to enjoin enforcement of the governor's order.

"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 noncitizen in federal custody, risking the safety of federal law enfromcent personnel and their families, and exacerbating the spread of COVID-19 in our communities. The executive order obstructs the Federal Government's arrangements with nongovernmental partners and directly interferes with the administration of federal immigration law," the suit claims.

The government also filed an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction blocking the enforcement of the governor's executive order.

In a statement about the lawsuit, Abbott said: "The Biden Administration has created a constitutional crisis between the federal government and the State of Texas. This stems from the Biden Administration's refusal to enforce immigration laws and allow illegal immigrants with COVID-19 to enter our country," the governor said.

"Until President Biden and his Administration do their jobs to enforce the laws of our nation and protect Americans, the State of Texas will continue to step up to protect our communities and uphold the rule of law," Abbott declared.

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