The Biden administration sued Texas Friday in an effort to block an executive order allowing state troopers to stop vehicles suspected of carrying illegal immigrants on the grounds that they may be spreading COVID-19.
The lawsuit follows a letter from Attorney General Merrick Garland warning Texas Gov. Greg Abbott that the order, which the governor issued Wednesday, was both “dangerous” and “contrary to federal law.” The government’s legal filing argued that the order could obstruct federal immigration operations, including migrant transport.
Under Abbott’s order, the Texas Department of Public Safety can stop any private vehicle “upon reasonable suspicion” that it is carrying illegal immigrants. If the suspicion is confirmed, troopers could then reroute vehicles back to their point of origin or impound them.
In response to the lawsuit, Abbott claimed in a statement Friday that the Biden administration “has created a constitutional crisis between the federal government and the State of Texas” by “knowingly import[ing] COVID-19 into Texas from across the border—willfully exposing Texans and Americans alike.”
“President Biden has a duty and a responsibility to protect and uphold our nation’s sovereignty, yet he has long-since abdicated his authority to do so,” Abbott added. “As the Governor of Texas, I have a responsibility to protect the people of Texas—a responsibility that grows more urgent by the day while the Biden Administration sits on the sidelines.”
In a statement accompanying the order, Abbott said it would “reduce the risk of COVID-19 exposure in our communities.”
Pro-immigration groups argue that the directive encourages racial profiling of Latinos by Texas law enforcement.
The Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector, the busiest corridor for illegal crossings, had more than 8,300 migrants in custody Wednesday, with an average processing time of 57 hours, said Brian Hastings, the sector chief. The sector has released more than 100,000 migrants since Oct. 1, including 9,000 in the last week.
The Homeland Security Department reported that 646 children traveling alone were taken into custody across the Mexico border on Thursday, compared with a daily average of 480 over the previous 30 days.
Abbott is among the fiercest critics of the Biden administration’s immigration policy. Last month, the governor authorized Texas state troopers to arrest illegal immigrants on trespassing charges and ordered state child care centers to pull the licenses of federal facilities housing migrant children.
The governor also announced that he had set aside $250 million as a “down payment” on construction of a border wall after President Biden halted the construction of the barrier often touted by former President Donald Trump.
With Post wires