Garland floats legal action over Abbott immigration order

Attorney General Merrick GarlandMerrick GarlandBipartisan senators to hold hearing on 'toxic conservatorships' amid Britney Spears controversy DOJ sues to block JetBlue-American Airlines partnership Texas sues Biden administration over guidance on transgender worker rights MORE has threatened legal action against Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottBudowsky: Newsom soars while Trump, Abbott, DeSantis ratings lag Biden launches investigation into Texas school mask mandate ban Texas governor signs more abortion restrictions into law MORE (R) over an executive order restricting nongovernmental organizations from transporting migrants from the southern border.

In a letter sent Thursday, Garland says Abbott's Executive Order GA-37 is “both dangerous and unlawful,” and urged the governor to rescind the order.

“In short, the Order is contrary to federal law and cannot be enforced,” Garland wrote.

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“I urge you to immediately rescind the Order,” he continued. Otherwise, the Justice Department “intends to pursue all appropriate legal remedies to ensure that Texas does not interfere with the functions of the federal govern­ment.”

Abbott fired back at Garland in a statement, saying in part that the Biden administration “fundamentally misunderstands what is truly happening at the Texas-Mexico border.”

“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 continued. “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.”

Abbott’s order stated that no person besides federal, state or local law enforcement can provide transportation to migrants who have been detained by Customs and Border Protection for “crossing the border illegally or who would have been subject to expulsion under the Title 42 order.” 

The order also directs the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) to “stop any vehicle upon suspicion” of transporting migrants, and says the agency is authorized to “impound a vehicle” that was used to transport a group of migrants. 

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But Garland wrote that the order would “jeopardize the health and safety of noncitizens in federal government custody,” as well as law enforcement and the community.

He further argued that the order would exacerbate overcrowding at migrant shelters, and interfere with the implementation of immigration law.

The order is not the first Abbott has issued as a means to address the influx of migrants crossing the border; earlier this week, the governor ordered the National Guard to help law enforcement mitigate border crossings.