Jul 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

AG urges Abbott to rescind restrictions on undocumented migrant travel

Side by side photos of Greg Abbott speaking and Merrick Garland speaking
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (left) and Attorney General Merrick Garland (right). Photos: Lynda M. Gonzalez-Pool and Samuel Corum/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Attorney General Merrick Garland on Thursday urged Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) to immediately rescind restrictions on undocumented migrant travel.

Why it matters: Abbott's order, which bars people from providing ground transportation to migrants detained for illegally crossing the border, gives the state's Department of Public Safety authority to stop and reroute "any vehicle upon reasonable suspicion" of violating the order.

  • Abbott claimed the decision, announced on Wednesday, is aimed at preventing the spread of the coronavirus, but the governor has made no move to mandate masks amid the new surge in cases.

What he's saying: In the letter, Garland argues Abbott's order is contrary to federal law and would "jeopardize the health and safety of noncitizens in federal government custody, federal law enforcement personnel and their families, and our communities."

  • "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 nongovernmental partners to ensure that released individuals are transported for appropriate COVID-19 testing to address public health concerns," Garland notes.
  • "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."
  • If Abbott does not immediately rescind the order, the DOJ will pursue "all appropriate legal remedies to ensure that Texas does not interfere" with the federal government's operations, he added.

Worth noting: Poor conditions in governmental facilities have encouraged the spread of COVID among migrant children detained in Texas border camps.

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